- BioNTech entered a share purchase agreement to acquire Novartis’s manufacturing plant in Marburg, Germany, in an effort to scale up manufacturing of the experimental coronavirus vaccine it is developing with partner Pfizer.
- The site should be fully operational in the first half of next year and capable of producing as many as 750 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine annually at its peak, BioNTech said. It will also be a source of production for other treatments the German biotech is developing.
- BioNTech and Pfizer are among the leaders in the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine. The companies have said they expect to produce 1.3 billion doses of their shot next year, should it succeed in clinical testing. The site will buoy those ambitions, and should become operational in mid-2021.
At a time when scores of drugmakers are working at unprecedented speed to confront the coronavirus pandemic, BioNTech and Pfizer are at the head of the pack. Their phase 3 study has enrolled 29,000 participants at 129 sites around the world, and the companies could release initial results by the end of October, which would likely be the first data from a large-scale efficacy trial of an experimental coronavirus vaccine.
If the vaccine proves successful, the two companies will face a new challenge: making enough of its shot to inoculate hundreds of millions of people across the globe.
The site in Marburg will help with that effort. It was attractive in part because it had “well-established” biotechnology drug substance and product manufacturing equipment and an experienced team of about 300 employees, BioNTech said. It expects to be able to produce 250 million doses of the vaccine, known as BNT162b2, in the first half of 2021 at the site.
The Marburg site will produce vaccine for use around the world, including in China. The company also has two other facilities that are manufacturing the experimental shot for clinical trials, and Pfizer has at least four production sites in the U.S. and Europe, BioNTech said.
BioNTech aims to use the facility for other reasons as well. The company is developing cell and gene therapy candidates for cancer and infectious diseases, and some of them rely on the company's messenger RNA, or mRNA technology. Marburg will become one of the biggest mRNA manufacturing sites in Europe and has potential for further expansion in the future, BioNTech said. The facility is an hour away from the Frankfurt airport and only about 90 minutes away from BioNTech’s headquarters in Mainz, Germany.
The site, originally called Behringwerke, was established in 1904 by Emil von Behring, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1901 for his work in developing a diphtheria antitoxin.
Financial details of the share purchase agreement weren’t released. The company expects the deal to close in the fourth quarter.