Operation Warp Speed

FujiFilm Diosynth Biotechnologies Texas ramps up capacity for Operation Warp Speed
Posted on 08/21/2020

August 21, 2020


By Chris Mathews, Houston Business Journal


A College Station-based contract manufacturer is assisting the federal government in its efforts to mass-produce Covid-19 vaccine candidates. 


The roughly $265 million task order, which falls under an existing agreement with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), reserves available manufacturing capabilities and capacities of the Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (CIADM) at the Texas A&M University System for Operation Warp Speed — the federal government's program to deliver millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses to the U.S. public. The task order was announced on July 27, making the CIADM at Texas A&M only the second to be reserved and expanded for the Operation Warp Speed effort. The first was in Maryland. 


The CIADM, a public-private partnership between BARDA and Texas A&M, subcontracts manufacturing to FujiFilm Diosynth Biotechnologies Texas, which owns and operates three manufacturing facilities in College Station. Eventually, FujiFilm's College Station facility will manufacture doses of Novavax Inc.'s Covid-19 vaccine candidate. 


Dr. Gerry Farrell, COO of FujiFilm Diosynth Biotechnologies Texas, told the Houston Business Journal that FujiFilm's site in Morrisville, North Carolina, is already manufacturing doses of the Novavax drug candidate for clinical trials. The College Station site is currently under expansion — the company is adding additional bioreactors to ramp up its manufacturing capacity through the government's task order. He expects to transfer Novavax production to College Station by the end of the year. 


"On top of that, we've also signed an agreement with Novavax to manufacture that product at our facility in the U.K.," Farrell said. "So in a sense, FujiFilm Diosynth Biotechnologies is going to be supplying a large part of the world market for this Covid vaccine." 


In addition to ramping up its manufacturing capabilities, the company is undertaking a significant hiring effort in College Station. FujiFilm Diosynth Biotechnologies is looking to hire between 150 and 200 workers between now and the end of the year, including experienced biopharmaceutical industry professionals, project engineers, program managers and other roles, Farrell said. The majority of those hires will be based in College Station, he said. 


"In the past 12 months, we've hired over 50 new graduates from [Texas] A&M University," Farrell said. "The challenge for us is in the experienced manufacturing staff. Most cases, we're relocating them. We are getting some from Houston because there is a large biopharmaceutical-biotech industry in Houston." 


Greffex, a Houston-based genetic engineering company, in early June announced a manufacturing agreement with FujiFilm Diosynth Biotechnologies to produce its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, according to a news release. Greffex CEO John Price told the Houston Business Journal in February that his company believed it had produced a viable vaccine candidate to prevent against Covid-19. 


"The material we're making [for Greffex] is very early-stage compared to where Novavax are," Farrell said. "We've started the tech transfer, we were going to develop a manufacturing process for them, and then probably be manufacturing mid-[2021]." 


FujiFilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, a contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO), planted roots in College Station when it acquired Kalon Biotherapeutics LLC in 2014. Kalon Biotherapeutics, a private company that received funding from the state's Emerging Technology Fund, was launched in 2011 out of the Texas A&M University System. 


FujiFilm Diosynth Biotechnologies specializes in contract manufacturing for biologics, viral vaccines and gene therapies. The company is a partnership between FujiFilm and Mitsubishi Corp. The CDMO has locations in College Station, North Carolina, Denmark and the U.K.


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