Exelead inks deal to manufacture lipid nanoparticles for Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
For the two leading Covid-19 vaccines, mRNA is the star of the show — and the microscopic lipids used to transport that therapy into cells have taken a much less visible backseat. But that doesn’t mean that delivery tech isn’t in high demand, and now another CDMO is chipping in to help Pfizer/BioNTech’s shot along.
Indianapolis-based Exelead will add 50 positions to handle the increased workload tied to the Pfizer/BioNTech deal, which was spun from another project the two companies discussed in 2020, before the Covid-19 vaccines were widely available, the partners said.
“We were in discussions with Pfizer in the back half of 2020 on a separate project and I think within Pfizer, word of mouth maybe just got around that the fit might be right to assist with the Covid project, it just blends well with our expertise in house,” business development leader Drew Andis told Endpoints News. We do focus on complex formulations with the large majority of our projects, focusing specifically on lipid nanoparticles, so I think they were able to recognize that we may be capable, we entered the turn of the year and we hit the ground running.”
“We are extremely proud to be part of the manufacture of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, knowing our work has the potential to help millions of people,” Exelead CEO John Rigg said in a statement.
When the pandemic first began, the company worried about how it would affect the supply chain. Soon after, Andis said, Exelead started to realize that the emerging technology used in Pfizer, Moderna and CureVac’s vaccines was lipid nanoparticles. The CDMO understood immediately there was an opportunity to help jump in producing those key delivery vehicles.
Exelead announced in October 2019 that it was going to double its capacity through a $25 million project at its Indiana location before Covid-19 was even on the radar. The company cited a rising demand for liposomal drug products, and in a 2019 interview with Inside Indiana Business, Rigg said his company had to shut down operations for three months because they had met their maximum production capacity.
“I get a phone call once a week asking if they can buy [Exelead],” Rigg said at the time. “It’s very, very hot in the venture capital world right now. A lot of our clients that we deal with are venture capital-backed.”
Exelead started production toward the end of May and has about 1 million doses completed, the Indianapolis Fox affiliate reported. The agreement will end at the end of 2021, when the two sides will then re-evaluate.