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Thermo Fisher plots $600M manufacturing boost to meet COVID demand—and its work won’t stop there

With COVID-19 top of mind for many contract developers and manufacturers right now, Thermo Fisher Scientific has blueprinted a manufacturing boost to tackle pandemic work in the short-term—and vastly expand capacity in the years to come. 

Thermo Fisher will upgrade its bioprocessing operations with more than $600 million in capital investments, plus at least 1,500 new hires, the company said Wednesday. The expansion, which will more than double the CDMO’s production capacity, will support both short-term COVID-19 demand and bolster the company’s long-term efforts to develop biologics and vaccines for other diseases. 

Expected to wrap in 2022, the upgrades will include staff-ups at 11 Thermo Fisher manufacturing plants across the Americas, Europe and Asia, alongside targeted investments to shore up supplies of single-use technologies, purification resins and cell culture media.

Specifically, the company aims to add capacity for its “single-use technologies” business at sites in Utah and Pennsylvania, the United Kingdom, Singapore and China. Meanwhile, the company has its sights set on an additional investment to expand bioprocessing equipment and automation capacity at its Santa Clara, California, site.

Thermo Fisher’s purification network, which makes process-scale chromatography resins for a variety of products, including vaccines and gene therapies, will also get a boost. The company is moving to expand its POROS resin manufacturing site in Bedford, Massachusetts, and open a new 85,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in that state.

Lastly, the company is adding capacity at other sites in New York, Florida and Scotland to beef up production of Gibco cell culture media, supplements and process liquids, and customer-owned media formulations. The cash infusion will create redundancy at the sites to help shore up global supply, Thermo Fisher said. 

One of the world’s largest contract manufacturers, Thermo Fisher’s biggest pandemic play has come via its contributions to COVID-19 testing, though the company has pitched in on drugs and vaccines, as well.

Humanigen in September tapped the CDMO to help scale up capacity of its COVID-fighting monoclonal antibody lenzilumab, which is currently plowing ahead in a phase 3 trial in patients with severe disease. Humanigen in January said it had completed enrollment for its study and expected to debut top-line data this month. 

Meanwhile, Inovio that same month folded Thermo Fisher into the manufacturing network for its DNA-based vaccine hopeful, INO-4800, but that company has a ways to go before its shot would be ready for broad usage.