BioNTech preps hiring spree at mRNA vaccine plant, boosting workforce by 50%

In just two short years, BioNTech will have more than doubled the size of its workforce at the German biologics facility it bought from Novartis at the height of the pandemic.

BioNTech is hiking the headcount at its Marburg, Germany, vaccine plant by 50%, the company confirmed via email Wednesday. Since it picked up the site from Novartis in 2020, BioNTech has added about 200 employees. Now, it's planning to recruit an additional 250 staffers before the year is out, a company spokesperson said. 

At the same time, the German mRNA specialist is socking some €50 million (about $56.4 million) into the site. It’s planning to add additional office space there as it weighs options for future growth, BNN Bloomberg reports.

The site came equipped with about 300 workers at the time it was purchased. 

The Marburg facility already ranks among the biggest mRNA vaccine factories in the world, and it's helped supply more than 1.2 billion doses of Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, BNN pointed out. For 2022, the partners are aiming to produce a staggering 4 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses across their global manufacturing sites. That could include a mix of their current vaccine formula, plus a potential new omicron-specific shot, if one is needed, BioPharma Reporter noted earlier this week. 

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BioNTech isn't just sticking to pandemic products in Marburg, either. The company has telegraphed plans to work on other mRNA vaccines there once they're approved, such as the shots it's developing with Pfizer for flu and shingles, plus its solo mRNA vaccine efforts in malaria, tuberculosis and herpes, BNN said. The company has also said it plans to work on antibodies and cell and gene therapies for cancer and infectious diseases at the facility. 

BioNTech bought the Marburg site from Novartis back in 2020, right around the time it and Pfizer were starting to rack up sizable supply deals for their shot. At the time, the German company said the site could have annual capacity of up to 750 million COVID-19 mRNA vaccine doses. It’s since dialed up that capacity estimate to 1 billion doses per year.

BioNTech added in September of 2020 that the site would be used to handle the first three steps of manufacturing for its mRNA shot: mRNA production, drug substance purification and concentration, and formulation.

BioNTech kicked off messenger RNA production in Marburg last February. The European Medicines Agency gave the site a thumbs up to start making and supplying partners with vaccine drug products from Marburg in March.

RELATED: Pfizer's peak COVID sales now pegged at $50B-plus, with vaccine still hauling in $25B by 2027: analysts

Pfizer and BioNTech’s shot has quickly risen through the ranks as the world’s top-selling drug. Together with Pfizer’s oral antiviral Paxlovid, Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine could generate combined peak sales of between $50 billion and $60 billion, Cantor Fitzgerald’s Louise Chen wrote in a note to clients last month. Working solo, the vaccine could reach $25 billion in 2027 sales, the analyst predicted at the time.

During its third-quarter earnings presentation, Pfizer projected about $29 billion in 2022 COVID-19 vaccine revenues. 

“We’ll continue to update the numbers for 2022 based on the contracts that we’ve signed,” Pfizer CFO Frank D’Amelio said on a call with investors.