Catalent pumps $50M into Indiana fill-finish capacity with COVID-19 vaccine contracts in hand

Catalent Bloomington, Indiana plant
New Jersey's Catalent has signed on with two COVID-19 vaccine front-runners, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, as a manufacturing partner. (Catalent)

With a suite of drugmakers looking for manufacturing partners in the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine, major contract manufacturers are stepping in to help handle the load. One of those, New Jersey's Catalent, is now injecting some significant change into one of its U.S. plants to keep up with demand.

Catalent will invest $50 million into a third high-speed filling line that would add capacity for 80 million additional vials per year at its Bloomington, Indiana, plant, the New Jersey-based CDMO said Wednesday. 

The newest fill line will help Catalent pick up an expected increase in business as the company works with a COVID-19 vaccine front-runner to scale up production in the coming months. 

Johnson & Johnson tapped Catalent's Bloomington site in April to handle fill-finish duties for its recombinant protein-based COVID-19 shot. 

As part of that deal, Catalent agreed to hire an additional 300 workers at the plant starting in July, with the goal of reaching 24/7 manufacturing schedules by January.

RELATED: AstraZeneca ropes in Catalent gene therapy site to produce viral vectors for COVID-19 vaccine

Catalent has also pledged to pitch in support for J&J's shot at its Anagni, Italy site and has teamed up with AstraZeneca to help produce its Oxford University-partnered, adenovirus-based hopeful, AZD1222.

Last month, the British drugmaker and Catalent fleshed out a preexisting manufacturing pact to include drug substance production, including viral vectors, at the CDMO's gene therapy facility in Harmans, Maryland.

Catalent planned to start production there this quarter, building on its previous deal with AstraZeneca for fill-finish and packaging duties at its Anagni site.

Catalent's work will include production of viral vectors for a genetically modified form of the adenovirus used in Oxford's shot. The modified virus, known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, aims to induce a lasting immune response to spike proteins added to the virus's surface.

RELATED: AstraZeneca taps Catalent for COVID-19 vaccine finishing, packaging at Italian plant

In June, AstraZeneca and Catalent reached a deal for finishing duties at the CDMO's Italian site, pledging to produce "hundreds of millions of doses" between this August and March 2022.

Catalent pledged space at its 305,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Anagni through 2022, contingent on AstraZeneca securing regulatory approvals for its shot. The vaccine is currently in phase 2/3 human testing in Brazil and the U.K. and as of Tuesday, in phase 3 in the U.S.