Siemens and BioNTech commit to accelerate Covid-19 vaccine scale-out, starting in Singapore

Article by Adam Duckett

SIEMENS and BioNTech say they will build a Covid-19 vaccine facility in Singapore, as part of efforts to rapidly expand worldwide production.

The companies have said they want to use the rapid development of a vaccine production site in Marburg, Germany, as a template for expansion around the world, starting in Singapore. In Marburg, Siemens has helped BioNTech convert an existing plant into a vaccine production facility in just five months.

Siemens is providing BioNTech with design, simulation and engineering software, and process control technology. Cedrik Neike, CEO of Digital Industries at Siemens, said the partnership has shaved seven months off the time it would have typically taken to convert the plant.

“We now want to transfer this success to other production sites in order to make Covid-19 vaccines available as quickly as possible worldwide.”

BioNTech acquired the Marburg facility last year to accelerate manufacture of the proprietary mRNA technology that it developed with Pfizer. In June, the pair reported they had shipped 700m doses of their Covid-19 vaccine and expect to manufacture up to 3bn doses in 2021.

UN’s humanitarian fund UNICEF has warned that while some developing countries are well on their way to vaccinating their entire adult populations, less than 1% of global Covid-19 vaccine supply is reaching people in low-income countries, putting vulnerable populations and healthcare workers at risk. COVAX, an alliance that is working with governments and manufacturers to secure vaccines for low-income countries, forecast on 23 June that it will provide 1.5bn doses to 92 low-income countries in 2021, corresponding to vaccination of 23% of their populations. As of 30 June it had shipped 91m doses.

COVAX is purchasing and supplying eight Covid-19 vaccines including from BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Moderna. It warned however, that many uncertainties – including inadequate manufacturing capacity – hang over these supplies.

COVAX said short-term supply concerns persist due to delays in scale-out of AstraZeneca’s vaccine and diversion of production at the Serum Institute of India (SII) as the country diverted exports for domestic use to combat rising infection rates.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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