Evotec's new Washington site is ready to roll, and the U.S. has already called first dibs for COVID-19 antibody supplies

With its inaugural commercial plant, Evotec says it’s ready to drum up customers at every link of the biologics chain. Its first order of business? Making investigational COVID-19 antibody drugs for the feds.

Evotec has officially kicked off operations at J.POD 1 US in Redmond, Washington, where it’s leveraging "highly intensified" production steps to make biologics more affordably. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is already in line to get first crack at the Redmond facility this fall.

The company isn't disclosing its investment in the plant, an Evotec spokesperson said over email. He did flag the facility's cost-saving potential, though. The design of J.POD 1 "[shifts] the complexity of the plant to the process," which has allowed Evotec to build the facility at "significantly" less cost than other biomanufacturing plants.

The 130,000-square-foot plant houses quality control and process development labs for both clinical and commercial products plus offices, meeting spaces and a warehouse. The site features a “manufacturing ballroom” and autonomous clean rooms, which use “intensified” fed-batch processing—also known as continuous processing—to tackle biologics projects up to 1,000 liters in scale.

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Now gaining traction in the pharmaceutical world, continuous manufacturing utilizes a constant stream of production processes—rather than individualized steps—to make drugs and other substances. The FDA and an expanding roster of companies have trumpeted the approach for its potential quality, speed and cost advantages over the stop-and-start batch process the industry has used for decades.

Using this approach, Evotec says it can turn out “a few kilograms to metric tons” of drug substance at J.POD 1 depending on a project's needs. The plant is designed for both commercial and late clinical-stage manufacturing.

As it stands, the DOD has dibs on the first production runs at the plant, which are due to start in November, Evotec said this week.

Evotec's biologics subsidiary, dubbed Just – Evotec Biologics, also runs discovery, development and early clinical-stage manufacturing operations at its sister facility in Seattle. The company currently employs more than 250 people between both its Washington sites and expects its headcount to reach about 300 by the end of the year.

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Evotec is touting J.POD 1’s “dramatically compressed construction time” versus traditional biomanufacturing projects. The company stood up the facility in 19 months versus an industry norm of about four years, the company says. Still, the opening comes later than Evotec forecast when it unveiled the plans thanks to COVID-19 and other delays.

Meanwhile, Evotec has also unveiled plans for a J.POD 2 site in France. That site should come online in 2023, the company says.

COVID-19 is exactly where Evotec has been marshaling its firepower in recent months. Back in October, Evotec’s subsidiary Just snagged an undisclosed lump of cash from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to pursue and work on new monoclonal antibody (mAb) drugs against severe forms of COVID-19. At the start of the year, the DOD handed Just $28.6 million in exchange for seven years of manufacturing capacity for experimental COVID-19 mAbs at J.POD 1. The deal expanded on an earlier mAb pact Evotec forged with the DOD last July.