Drugmaker AstraZeneca’s potential coronavirus vaccine is now in advanced trials, and the company says it has the capacity to make three billion doses when the vaccine is ready. But even before the final phase of testing and government approval, the vaccine is on a massive manufacturing drive.
“In that particular process you will be making millions of vaccines,” said Pall Corporation’s director of strategy Dr. Clive Glover.
But the challenge is how to scale from a small vial of vaccine to billions of doses — quickly.
“That process would generally be measured in years,” Glover said. “And five years is not unusual. We were able to design the process, get our equipment in to one of our manufacturing partners and run the initial process within eight weeks.”
“So it was a sprint, to say the least,” Glover added.
That sprint is now a relay race — and a biotech lab on the southern coast of England has the baton. The process starts by making a small batch of vaccine.
“We grow the cells up in this bioreactor and use a starter version of the vaccine, put that in the bioreactor,” Glover said. “It infects the cells that are growing inside here and allows the vaccine to actually make more of the vaccine itself.”
The rest is a complex filtering process that screens out impurities until they are left with a bagful of vaccines ready for the vials — and eventually, your arm.
A blueprint will be used by manufacturers of the vaccine around the world, all of whom are waiting for the go-ahead to start rolling out, hopefully in record time.