- GlaxoSmithKline said Wednesday it will spend $100 million to expand capacity at its Hamilton, Montana, site and boost production of vaccines, including Shingrix.
- The investment will create temporary construction and contracting jobs and a range of new permanent positions in science, engineering, manufacturing and quality control, GSK said in a statement.
- GSK is focusing the investment on components for adjuvants, which are added to vaccines to strengthen the immune response of patients.
The British drugmaker is acting in part to address a shingles vaccine shortage that has captured nationwide attention. Demand for GSK’s Shingrix (zoster vaccine recombinant), approved in 2017, quickly outstripped supply and forced shipping delays and order limits last year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is cautioning patients that the delays are likely to continue through this year. And AARP has offered advice to its members on how best to find the vaccine, including staying in close touch with the local pharmacy.
Even with the shortages, Shingrix became one of GSK’s most important growth drivers in its first full year, beating analysts’ early expectations. The vaccine chalked up sales of 784 million pounds, or about $1 billion, last year and ended 2018 with 98% market share, GSK reported in February.
GSK is one of the few remaining large pharmaceutical makers in the vaccine market, along with Pfizer and Merck & Co. The company has more than 40 different vaccines used in over 160 countries. Last year, the company sold 770 million doses of vaccine, accounting for 5.9 billion pounds in revenue.
But vaccine production is complicated. Some vaccines can take as long as two years in the production process, GSK said. The average batch undergoes more than 100 quality checks, the company said.
The drugmaker has 16 manufacturing facilities around the world for vaccines. It’s investing more in Hamilton as Montana emerges “as a hub for the biotechnology industry,” Jack Bailey, president of U.S. pharmaceuticals, said in GSK’s statement.