Evonik announces $220m lipid production facility for mRNA-based therapies

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: Evonik
Picture: Evonik

Related tags Evonik lipid mRNA

Evonik will build a production facility for pharmaceutical lipids in Indiana: with the new site ‘positioning the group for future growth in novel mRNA-based therapies beyond COVID-19 vaccines’.

Construction at the new plant at Evonik’s Tippecanoe manufacturing site in Lafayette will begin in early 2023, with the new capabilities scheduled to go onstream in 2025.

A $220m investment in the facility is driven by up to $150m from the US Government, through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). Additional support comes from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), Greater Lafayette Commerce (GLC), and Duke Energy. More than 80 jobs will be created as a result.

Flexible production of a variety of lipids

Evonik, the specialty chemicals company headquartered in Essen, Germany, supplies global pharmaceutical companies with the lipids needed for use with mRNA active ingredients (including the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine).

Noting that mRNA can be designed for a broad range of pharmacological applications, is now boosting its presence in lipid production with the new Indiana facility.  

Lipids, molecules that make up the building blocks of living cells, are critical to producing mRNA-based drugs. The mRNA is enclosed in a lipid nanoparticle (LNP) composed of specific lipids. The LNP protects the mRNA and delivers it safely into the cell, where it is released.

"LNPs are currently the most advanced drug delivery system and have gained worldwide acceptance in the fight against COVID-19 due to their versatility,"​ notes Evonik.

The multi-purpose facility will allow the rapid and flexible production of a variety of lipids: serving future applications of mRNA technology in infectious disease control, cancer immunotherapy, protein replacement, and gene therapy. Furthermore, the new facility ensures a rapid and extensive supply of lipids as needed in case of a future pandemic, says the company.

“With this investment in lipid production, we are further expanding our leading position on the global market and specifically strengthening our Health Care business,”​ says Evonik CEO Christian Kullmann. “It supports our strategic transformation into ‘Next Generation Evonik’, contributing value-added solutions with superior environmental and socio-economic profiles to our customers.”

The Tippecanoe site was chosen thanks to its existing infrastructure, skilled workforce, and readily available technologies. Tippecanoe is one of the world’s largest sites for active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and Evonik's second-largest site in the US, with around 650 employees.

“As a strategic partner for pharma and biotech companies, we are using the new facility to support our customers in developing nucleic acid-based drugs right up to commercialization. These new therapies are the future,”​ says Thomas Riermeier, head of Evonik's Health Care business. “We are also evaluating further expansion of our formulation services and scale-up capacity, thereby consolidating our leading position as an end-to-end provider.”

By expanding the production of specialty lipids, Evonik is strengthening its Nutrition & Care division portfolio of system solutions for advanced drug delivery. The division aims to increase the share of system solutions from 20% today to more than 50% by 2030.

In 2016 Evonik acquired Canadian company Transferra Nanosciences. Evonik’s laboratories in Vancouver focus on developing lipid-based, parenteral drug formulations, including LNPs and liposomes. Evonik expanded its portfolio in 2020 with the acquisition of Wilshire Technologies, an American manufacturer of plant-based excipients for the pharmaceutical industry (excipients are non-pharmaceutically active ingredients and, as in case of lipids, can play a crucial role to help the APIs to reach the designation in the body).

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