Catalent makes a $100M splash to add biologics drug substance firepower at Italian plant

Catalent
The first phase of Catalent's expansion will bring two 2,000 single-use bioreactors online in Italy. (Catalent)

Contract manufacturer Catalent's star has risen sharply over the last year thanks to a series of high-profile COVID-19 vaccine production pacts. Now, it's keeping the momentum going with plans to add new biologics firepower at a key factory in the pandemic fight. 

Catalent is laying out $100 million to add biologics drug substance production at the Italian plant it bought from Bristol Myers Squibb in early 2020. The first leg of the two-tranche upgrade will install a pair of 2,000-liter single-use bioreactors in new "purpose-built" manufacturing suites, Catalent said in a release. The company is also plotting investments to boost its offerings in early-stage clinical development, plus late-stage and commercial tech transfers at the Anagni, Italy, factory.

Catalent expects the initial phase of the upgrade to be up and running by April 2023. By that time, the company aims to increase its headcount in Anagni by up to 100.  

Catalent's Anagni plant has become a fixture in the battle against COVID-19. The company is filling orders there for Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca's vaccines, and it recently charted an upgrade to boost J&J supplies starting later this year. 

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The company didn't say whether it planned to channel its new drug substance offerings toward its COVID-19 work. 

Alongside upcoming drug substance capabilities, the Anagni plant is equipped for aseptic vial filling and secondary packaging of biologics, sterile products and vaccines. 

The project will also lay down infrastructure for another six 2,000-liter single-use bioreactors, Catalent said. In all, the company projects 16,000-liters of total flexible manufacturing capacity coming online at the plant, which can be used for projects at scales between 2,000 liters and 8,000 liters. 

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In March, Catalent said it would scale up a second high-speed filling line in Anagni to boost capacity for J&J's single-dose vaccine, which scored European authorization in March. Catalent expects the line to be operational in the fourth quarter and says it will support the production of J&J's vaccine through late 2022.