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How Contract Manufacturing Organizations Have Grown Through COVID-19

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic that has transformed the world, one side effect has been the increased prominence of contract manufacturing organizations, or CMOs. These organizations historically have been contracted by a range of organizations and governments to handle medical and pharmaceutical production, and during the pandemic their capabilities have been vital in mass producing the lifesaving medicines and vaccines that will help lift the planet out of the pandemic. Companies and organizations are investing billions into these CMOs to get the support they need, and it’s resulting in astonishing progress in an incredibly short period of time.


From new equipment and systems for managing production to entirely new plants and facilities, the unique new challenges of COVID-19 have required dramatic action that’s pushed CMO companies to their limits. But the leading CMOs have been able to rise to the challenge and bring life-saving innovations and ideas to the fight to mitigate and eventually end this pandemic.


Leading CMOs in the COVID-19 Era


In 2020 and 2021, a select few of contract manufacturing organizations were able to rise up through the pandemic to grow and expand their capabilities, not only helping them contribute to the current crisis but providing them with the ability to serve a greater range of needs in the future. Here are the top-performing CMOs over 2020 and 2021.

  1. Samsung Biologics


The top contract manufacturing organization in the realm of global pharmaceuticals is Samsung Biologics, who have been expanding at an accelerated rate as they continue to increase their capabilities, range of services, and the kinds of projects and clients they can manage.


The organization recently invested $1.7 billion into a far-reaching expansion project, which included breaking ground on a fourth plant in Incheon, South Korea, as well as a brand-new CDO R&D facility located in San Francisco that will give them closer access to many of their clients and contacts on the U.S.’s west coast. Future expansions are planned for Boston, Massachusetts as well as in Europe.


One of Samsung Biologics’ most high-profile partnerships in the last year has been with AstraZeneca, one of the lead developers of the COVID-19 vaccine. The two organizations partnered to increase manufacturing capabilities for pharmaceuticals. 


AstraZeneca’s Executive Vice President Pam Cheng had this to say about the high-profile connection: “This long-term partnership with Samsung Biologics strengthens our manufacturing capabilities, and ensures we are well-positioned to continue to deliver our exciting portfolio of new and established biologics medicines to patients with quality, speed and efficiency.”  

  1. Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies


Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies has also been making significant investments in its future, including close to a billion dollars used to double the manufacturing capabilities of its plant located in Denmark. Other investments have included a new therapies innovation center in Texas, a 3X increase in production capacity at a UK plant dedicated to triple microbial production, and increased manufacturing capabilities at a site in North Carolina.


In Texas, FDB also announced they were partnering with the Texas A&M University’s System Center for Innovation in Advanced Development & Manufacturing. Their goal? To produce not one but two additional COVID-19 vaccine candidates to help push the work of vaccination forward at an accelerated rate. Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies CEO Dr. Gerry Farrell said, “After several months of intense preparation and hard work, we are ready to produce two vaccine candidates locally here in College Station.”

  1. Catalent


Catalent’s most high-profile move in the last year came when they acquired MaSTherCell Global, a leading cell therapy company that’s also known for its CDMO services. Their $315 investment included the acquisition of two facilities, in Texas and Belgium, which both are focused on the production of gene therapies and cell therapies that offer promising benefits for patients. An additional $130 million was invested in the expansion of Catalent’s facility in Maryland, adding five more manufacturing suites to its gene-therapy campus classified as Phase III.


Like Samsung Biologics, Catalent also partnered with AstraZeneca to aid in the production of the COVID-19 vaccine. Catalent’s Maryland facility was instrumental in this mission.


Catalent also partnered with another high-profile vaccine company, Moderna, helping them manufacture their version of the sought-after vaccine. “Catalent’s proven expertise in manufacturing scale-up and commercial production are well suited to support Moderna’s efforts to prepare for wide-scale supply of this vaccine candidate so that it is available if appropriate to address the pandemic,” said CEO John Chiminski.

  1. Thermo Fisher Scientific


Thermo Fisher Scientific is a CMO that’s been rapidly expanding, building 15 total development and commercial production lines across two continents as they establish themselves in the U.S. and Europe, adding and expanding facilities as far-reaching as North Carolina, the UK, and Italy.


They came to widespread prominence in 2020 as they’ve helped manufacture and prepare the freezers that are vital for the storage of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines, which must be kept at exactly -94 degrees Fahrenheit in order to remain effective. Thermo Fisher Scientific was tasked with manufacturing the freezers, which must be powerful enough to maintain their temperature but small and portable enough to ship and store around the world. Their forward-thinking approach allowed them to be ready when the time came to manufacture this high rate of freezers.


“The fact is, we’ve been looking at this for months. As soon as we knew mRNA vaccines were going to be in play, we started projecting and planning from a supply chain perspective,” said general manager Dr. Alex Esmon. 


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