The refinement of sterile manufacturing processes had a central part to play in enabling the pharmaceutical industry to successfully deliver billions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. But are there further efficiency savings that can be made to enable an even faster response in the future? Jon Reed, Head of Strategy, Recipharm argues “yes”.
The manufacturing and commercialisation of vaccines to tackle COVID-19 took place at an unprecedented speed and on a scale never before seen in the pharmaceutical industry. Billions of doses of effective mRNA vaccines have now been delivered to patients around the world, and Billions more continue to be manufactured.
Overall vaccine spending in 2021 has been higher than any other year on record,1 and total cumulative expenditure for the COVID-19 vaccine is projected to reach $157 billion by 2025.2
The last 24 months have demonstrated the value of mRNA vaccine technology. Harnessing messenger RNA (mRNA) technology and commercial manufacturing partnerships, pharma companies were able to accelerate development and deliver an effective mRNA-based response to the virus. They have shown how the pharmaceutical development and manufacturing process can be taken to new levels of speed and efficiency, all while maintaining optimum levels of sterility required for vaccine production.
In addition, they highlighted the importance of partnerships with contract development and manufacturing organisations (CDMOs). These outsourcing partners were able to provide ready-made sterile processing infrastructure for large-volume aseptic fill and finish of the vaccines. For example, with the help of their commercial partners, Moderna and Pfizer/ BioNTech have been able to deliver more than 4 billion doses to patients to date. The support of experienced sterile processing specialists with aseptic manufacturing capabilities was essential, providing pharmaceutical companies with immediate access to the infrastructure needed to develop mRNA vaccines and commercialise them successfully.
Nevertheless, the success of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out does pose a challenge for pharma companies and their outsourcing partners when developing new vaccines and biopharma treatments for next influenza or coronavirus outbreak. The general public, investors and other key stakeholders now have heightened expectations about what the industry can achieve and how quickly they can deliver. As such, there is pressure on pharma companies to achieve even greater speed and effectiveness next time.