by SUSAN M. BRACKNEY
There’s a bit of Bloomington in much of the COVID-19 vaccine supply currently flowing nationwide. Locally, Baxter BioPharma Solutions is set to provide up to 90 million Moderna doses in 2021. And, including Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and some new vaccine candidates, Catalent Bloomington will deliver more than one billion COVID-19 vaccine and treatment doses this year.
But that’s taken significantly heavy lifting—and lots of moolah, notes Baxter BioPharma Solutions Vice President Marie Keeley. “Each product has its own manufacturing requirements, including process-specific equipment, product- dedicated parts, and materials.
“We recently announced a $50 million investment to expand our sterile fill/finish manufacturing site,” she continues. The expansion will result in 100 new hires. (Baxter currently has 700-plus employees working at its 600,000-square-foot facility.)
As for Catalent? “We’d previously announced the addition of two [production] lines before COVID even started,” says Denis Johnson, vice president and general manager of Catalent Bloomington. COVID’s arrival necessitated yet another new line—and new equipment, facilities, and staff. “In total, that’s about $220 million in investment the company made in equipment to add those filling lines,” Johnson adds.
“We have to operate and fill products in a sterile fashion, so when we went to install the new lines, we had to build out clean room space,” he explains. “We went from a single-story area to a three-story area. It was quite a complex operation.”
The facility now occupies about one million square feet. It also went from 1,200 employees last year to 2,800 today. From employee salaries to funds paid to local vendors and contractors, Catalent injects about $165 million into the community.
“I think Bloomington is obviously a growing and diversifying hub,” Johnson continues. “Cook Medical has been a champion and an innovator in the medical device space for years.” He also credits area players like Boston Scientific, Baxter, and Eli Lilly & Company with helping to put this region on the map.
And, thanks to the increasing visibility of biologics like the mRNA- based COVID-19 vaccines, Bloomington’s visibility as a biologics leader will likely grow, too. What’s more, Johnson concludes, “The fact that Bloomington is front and center for solving this problem for the country is something I think we can all be proud of.”