While the Chancellor is visiting the Marburg plant, Biontech boss Sahin announces an expansion of his own vaccine production. The pharmaceutical company is thus also countering the fear that it wants to migrate. Scholz promises the industry faster approval procedures.
The pharmaceutical company Biontech is expanding its vaccine plant in Marburg, Hesse. At the end of this year, Biontech intends to produce its own plasmids, an important precursor for its vaccines, on a commercial scale for the first time. The company is investing around 40 million euros for this, as CEO Ugur Sahin said in the afternoon. "Since taking over our production facility in Marburg in autumn 2020, we have continuously invested in the site in order to expand our production capacities and possibilities," said Sahin during the visit of Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Marburg on the occasion of the completion of the new facility.
Biontech wants to become more independent in the production of mRNA drugs in Germany and Europe through its own plasmid production and produce a large part of its plasmid requirements itself. Plasmids - small, circular DNA molecules - are a key starting material for the production of messenger RNA (mRNA), on which Biontech's Covid-19 vaccine is based. The company also needs them for mRNA-based drugs for cancer and infectious diseases that it is researching. The fact that the Mainz plasmids had to be purchased externally in the past was also a limiting factor in vaccine production at the beginning.
"Germany and Europe are becoming more resilient through the development of local value chains," explained Chancellor Scholz. The SPD politician promised the pharmaceutical industry accelerated approval processes for factories and the approval of medicines in order to keep them in Germany. The general conditions are not that bad. But "faster approval procedures are needed, that applies to factories, but also to new drugs, for research projects, and also for the use of data when it comes to research". The so-called new Germany pace, with which the first liquid gas terminals could be built relatively quickly on the coast in the course of the energy crisis, must now also apply to other areas.
Biontech's announcement in January that it was expanding into cancer research in the UK and setting up a research center in Cambridge with over 70 scientists had sparked speculation that the company's cancer research might be relocating. Biontech had rejected this. Scholz emphasized that the company did not have to be persuaded to stay in Germany. "There is a very big commitment to our country here."
The new manufacturing facility in Marburg includes two facilities covering both clinical and commercial scale plasmid DNA production. Biontech expects that the quantities of plasmid DNA produced there annually can be used as starting material for several hundred million vaccine doses or in therapies. In Marburg, the company wants to increasingly manufacture mRNA-based products for its clinical studies. Biontech took over the plant from the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis and has been producing its corona vaccine there since the beginning of 2021. It is now one of the largest production facilities for Biontech's mRNA vaccines in Europe. The number of employees has more than doubled to around 700 since the takeover.