Lonza leverages learnings from earlier ramp-up of Moderna drug substance, looks to boost staffing levels

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/ffikretow
© GettyImages/ffikretow

Related tags Lonza CDMO Moderna Production line

A new agreement with Moderna will see Lonza add three more production lines at its site in Visp, Switzerland.

Additional production lines will come online sequentially, said the contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO).

All three are expected to be operational in the earlier part of 2022.

In May 2020, Lonza and Moderna announced a 10-year strategic collaboration agreement to enable the manufacture of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine and additional products from the US biotech in the future. Since then, Lonza has installed three production lines at its Visp (CH) site and one further production line in Portsmouth in the US. Production in Visp (CH) commenced within eight months of the initial agreement.

The existing lines at the Visp site are due to reach production capacity by late June, CEO, Pierre-Alain Ruffieux, said on Thursday, according to a Reuters piece, though he still needs about 100 more workers to staff them.

Recruitment drive, key learnings from earlier ramp-up

Recruitment for the additional production lines has already commenced as part of a wider hiring drive to support expansion plans in Lonza Visp. Lonza said it is seeking to attract specialists from the international market, as well as from within Switzerland. The company has taken learnings from its previous ramp-up of Moderna drug substance production lines in Visp and is confident that it can accelerate the operationalization of the new facilities.

The CDMO is working with the Swiss government to streamline work permits for foreign specialists while contacting Swiss companies who could loan specialists to step in temporarily.

Original Lonza estimates for staffing the Swiss production lines called for 70 employees each. As the facilities took shape, Ruffieux said, he realized more were necessary.

"By putting more people in some places, you can further accelerate your production and make it more efficient," ​he told Reuters, adding that experience gained now will help to boost efficiency of new Moderna production lines due in 2022.

Dan Staner, Moderna's European head, separately told Swiss state radio that the new pact with Lonza to double Swiss production was a vote of confidence. "It demonstrates that we think we have taken the right decision by coming to produce in Switzerland and, above all, to link up with Lonza,"​ Staner said.

Lonza’s Visp site is a complex of facilities specializing in the development and manufacture of products for pharmaceutical applications covering mammalian and microbial biopharmaceuticals, small molecules, highly potent APIs, peptides and bioconjugates including antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs). It also comprises the CDMO’s services offering: Ibex Solutions. Ibex solutions is designed to span the complete biopharmaceutical lifecycle - from preclinical to commercial stages, from drug substance to drug product, all in one location. 

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