Contract manufacturing organization – Top Contract Manufacturing Organizations in the COVID-19 Fight

It seems like biopharmaceutical deals are happening left and right in recent times…

… Well, they are! Biopharmaceuticals are at the cutting edge of biomedical research and thus can provide treatment options for serious medical conditions that may otherwise have no other routes available. With this mismatch between supply and demand (low supply, high demand), biopharmaceutical medications can be quite lucrative to produce. Thus, it is to no one’s surprise that mainstream pharmaceutical companies are entering the biopharmaceutical game.

Despite the already ongoing rush into biopharmaceuticals, the COVID-19 pandemic has shined an additional bright light on this particular niche of the industry from all perspectives. Primary stakeholders include the public, governmental agencies, and investors – all have a strong interest in seeing their solution to fighting coronavirus, the COVID-19 culprit, succeed. Members of the public may want to see candidates compatible with their bodies pass inspections, governmental agencies may want see candidates they are vouching for (often financially) aptly serve their communities, and investors may want to see the candidates they are funding provide a return on their money.

With all this said, here are some of the top contract manufacturing organizations, also known as CMO’s or even CDMO’s (Contract Development and Manufacturing Organizations) that are involved in the COVID-19 fight. They provide highly technical and large-scale manufacturing support to the pharmaceutical industry at large, and therefore play an important role in fighting coronavirus. This list is by no means exhaustive, but likely contains key contract manufacturers that stakeholders may take strong interest in. Important ones include:

–          BioVectra

o   Headquarters location: Charlottetown, Canada

o   Current market cap: N/A (private company)

o   COVID-19 -related news: BioVectra is currently supporting the COVID-19 fight by producing hand sanitizer. Though this was reportedly requested for recall by Health Canada for causing mild rashes when used excessively, they are also producing critical ingredients needed for COVID-19 diagnostic kits in Canada. Their existing biologics infrastructure could also soon support vaccine developments.

–          Cambrex

o   Headquarters location: East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA

o   Current market cap: N/A (private company)

o   COVID-19 -related news: Although they are not directly involved in fighting coronavirus, Cambex has made staunch dedications towards ensuring on-time delivery of their drug products despite the ongoing pandemic. COVID-19 has affected all industries around the globe, even disintegrating some, so it’s important for companies like Cambrex to keep their heads above water for the good of the patients they serve.

–          Catalent

o   Headquarters location: Somerset, New Jersey, USA

o   Current market cap: $14.10 billion

o   COVID-19 -related news: Catalent is a major player in the COVID-19 fight. They are apparently involved in over 50 projects related to antiviral, vaccine, diagnostic, and treatment programs across their biologics, gene therapy, oral technologies, soft-gel, and clinical supply businesses. In September, they announced a $130 million investment to expand their viral vector manufacturing facility in Harmans, Maryland. Previously in August, it was reported that they will provide drug substance manufacturing support to AstraZeneca for the University of Oxford’s vaccine candidate – AZD1222. They are also partnered with Johnson & Johnson and Moderna on their lead vaccine candidates.

–          CordenPharma

o   Headquarters location: Boulder, Colorado, USA

o   Current market cap: N/A (private company)

o   COVID-19 -related news: This past May, Moderna extended a contract with CordenPharma for CordenPharma to continue supplying its lipid excipients needed to encapsulate Moderna’s vaccine candidate.

–          Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies

o   Headquarters location: Morrisville, North Carolina, USA

o   Current market cap: $19.56 billion (Fujifilm Holdings Corporation)

o   COVID-19 -related news: FDB is contributing to fighting COVID-19 in a variety of ways. First, their flu drug Avigan was confirmed through clinical trials finished just in September to help patients recover at a faster rate. They further started building an Advanced Therapies Innovation Center in College Station, Texas in August to support gene therapies production. And also recently in July, FDB signed with Novavax to manufacture their COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

–          GSK Contract Manufacturing

o   Headquarters location: Brentford, United Kingdom

o   Current market cap: $186.85 billion (GlaxoSmithKline)

o   COVID-19 -related news: GSK’s largest COVID-19 -related deal actually comes from its rival Sanofi. The two have now co-signed two contracts, one with the U.S. and one with the E.U., to supply these two governments with coronavirus vaccines as soon as production is available.

–          Lonza Bioscience

o   Headquarters location: Basel, Switzerland

o   Current market cap: 42.19 billion CHF

o   COVID-19 -related news: Lonza is contracted with Moderna to produce their vaccine candidate. Media outlets are reporting that the two are fully aware of their status as COVID-19 frontrunners and so plan to race even further ahead with production as early as November when regulatory approval is acquired.

–          Pfizer CentreOne

o   Headquarters location: New York, New York, USA

o   Current market cap: $202.16 billion (Pfizer)

o   COVID-19 -related news: Pfizer is presently partnered with BioNTech to produce a coronavirus vaccine. They are amongst the frontrunners, so much so that their names are commonly used by politicians in their arguments sparking fears of political interference. Nonetheless, the Pfizer/BioNTech partnership grabbed a $1.95 billion deal with the U.S. government for vaccine production last July.

–          Samsung Biologics

o   Headquarters location: Incheon, South Korea

o   Current market cap: 45.52 trillion KRW

o   COVID-19 -related news: Samsung Biologics is also at the forefront of the fight against the coronavirus. They have scored massive deals with multiple noteworthy biopharmaceutical companies to produce their respective vaccines. Earlier, this past April, they entered into a $362 million agreement with Vir Biotechnology to produce its coronavirus vaccine candidates – VIR-7831 and VIR-7832. Later, in May, GlaxoSmithKline signed a $231 million contract with them for them to produce medications across GSK’s entire biologics portfolio, which includes coronavirus vaccine candidates – most notably one in partnership with Sanofi – amongst other drugs. Then, in August, they announced the construction of a $2 billion “super plant” at their Incheon headquarters that is as large as three normal-sized facilities combined, just to keep up with COVID-19 -related orders.

–          Thermo Fisher Scientific

o   Headquarters location: Waltham, Massachusetts, USA

o   Current market cap: $172.10 billion

o   COVID-19 -related news: Though a little quieter in the background, Thermo Fisher has also been active in contributing to COVID-19 battles. In September, they announced a $140 million investment into producing more laboratory plastic consumables to support global demand due to COVID-19 testing. They’re also investing into development and manufacturing of therapies vaccines, as evident by their relatively smaller partnership with Humanigen for their treatment candidate. And in August, they broke ground on a new Lenexa, Kansas manufacturing facility designed to meet increasing demand for viral transport media being used in coronavirus testing.

Biopharmaceutical companies in-general contribute important medications to the healthcare ecosystem. However, the COVID-19 has also exposed their integral role in fighting public health crises. With the already ongoing evolution of pharmaceutical companies towards biopharmaceutical drugs, the world’s respective stakeholders should take note of the coronavirus pandemic and how contract manufacturing organizations specifically played key positions in the fight so that future epidemics may be more swiftly resolved.



Alex is the co-author of 100 Greatest Plays, 100 Greatest Cricketers, 100 Greatest Films and 100 Greatest Moments. He has written for a wide variety of publications including The Observer, The Sunday Times, The Daily Mail, The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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