Overwhelmed by Shingrix demand, GSK plots $100M vaccine manufacturing boost

GlaxoSmithKline’s new shingles vaccine Shingrix hit the market running, performing so well in its launch year that the drugmaker ran into supply constraints. In response, GSK has pledged to boost its capacity, and it's now investing $100 million in vaccine production in Montana. 

GSK on Wednesday unveiled a $100 million investment to an existing site in Hamilton, Montana, where it makes adjuvants used in several of its vaccines. The expansion will add permanent jobs at the site as well as temporary construction and contracting work. 

The company’s site in Hamilton, Montana currently employs around 200 people. The site has produced adjuvants for GSK vaccines for more than a decade, GSK U.S. president of pharmaceuticals Jack Bailey said in a statement. 

"By expanding the adjuvant system production capabilities in Hamilton, we will continue to deliver long-term and sustainable supply for key vaccines, including Shingrix,” Bailey added. 

The investment comes after a huge launch year for Shingrix, during which the vaccine pulled in £784 million ($1 billion). Execs have committed to continue expanding production capacity to avoid last year's supply issues. In response to short supply, the company delayed TV advertising and implemented order limits for its vaccines.

As of the end of December, GSK has distributed more than 8.5 million doses of the vaccine, a spokesman said. The company plans to ship a "significantly" higher number of doses this year. On a conference call last year, GSK's global pharmaceuticals president Luke Miels said the company can "pretty much sell anything that we can make now in the U.S."

Over the next few years, the drugmaker aims to grow its overall capacity to the "high teen millions" annually, a representative previously said. But in the meantime, the company expects the shortage to persist throughout this year. 

RELATED: GlaxoSmithKline's Shingrix zooms toward blockbuster status despite tight supply 

GSK operates 86 manufacturing sites globally, including nine in the U.S.