Catalent aims to double capacity at Italian plant to produce J&J's coronavirus vaccine

With AstraZeneca failing to meet supply targets for its COVID-19 vaccine, Europe is struggling to live up to promises to protect its 764 million people from the disease.

Johnson & Johnson's shot, approved in the EU last week, could help fill the gap—and the pharma has turned to Catalent to speed up production.

Catalent said Wednesday that it will expand its fill-finish plant in Anagni, Italy to produce J&J's single-shot coronavirus vaccine. The company will add a second high-speed vial-filling line that is expected to come online in the fourth quarter, doubling its capacity to produce vaccines for the American drugmaker.

The CDMO took over the 300,000-square-foot facility—which it bought from Bristol Myers Squibb—in January 2020 and prepared it for COVID-19 vaccine production. J&J first signed up for production there last July. Catalent has also been filling COVID-19 vaccine orders there for AstraZeneca.

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J&J expects to deliver 200 million doses to the EU this year.

Little wonder that Catalent and Johnson & Johnson have teamed up. They’re based in neighboring towns in New Jersey. In April of last year, Somerset-based CDMO Catalent signed an agreement with the New Brunswick-based pharma giant to be its manufacturing partner in the United States. Catalent’s plant in Bloomington, Indiana hired 300 in the scale-up.

Catalent has seized numerous opportunities to be a major player in production of COVID-19 vaccines, also manufacturing them for Moderna from its plant in Bloomington. Other Catalent facilities producing coronavirus vaccines are in Harmans, Maryland, and Madison, Wisconsin. A site in San Diego is doing early-stage COVID-19 vaccine production.

Catalent CEO John Chiminski called the pandemic a growth “accelerator” earlier this year. The company is involved in more than 80 pandemic-related projects with clients. In the second quarter of fiscal year 2021, Catalent reported a 76% increase in revenues over the same quarter the previous year.