Texas biotech facility in College Station tapped to mass-produce potential COVID-19 vaccine

The Texas A&M University System Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing has been tapped to mass-manufacture a vaccine candidate that is still undergoing testing.      Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune
The Texas A&M University System Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing has been tapped to mass-manufacture a vaccine candidate that is still undergoing testing. Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune

A biotech production facility in College Station could begin manufacturing a COVID-19 vaccine as early as next year.

As part of a $265 million contract with the federal government, the Texas A&M University System Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing — which is owned and operated by Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies — has been tapped to mass-manufacture a vaccine candidate that is still undergoing testing. That vaccine, which is being developed by the little-known Maryland company Novavax, is one of six candidates the federal government has put billions of dollars behind as part of its Operation Warp Speed, which is pursuing an aggressive timeline for mass-distributing a coronavirus vaccine.

President Donald Trump, appearing Monday afternoon at a North Carolina Fujifilm facility where the vaccine candidate is being developed for clinical trials, praised the progress of the Novavax vaccine and of other therapeutics.

“We will have it delivered in record time,” he said.

If clinical trials for the Novavax vaccine prove successful, the bulk production will be moved to the College Station facility — “which is quite the place,” the president said Monday — starting next year. The federal dollars will significantly expand the facility’s production capacity.

Novavax, which has never brought a vaccine to market, received the federal government’s largest-yet vaccine contract of $1.6 billion earlier this month. A total of about $4 billion has been invested in companies pursuing vaccines.

According to the World Health Organization, Novavax’s vaccine is still in relatively early stages compared with competitors’. Researchers began testing the vaccine in 130 humans in May and expect to report preliminary results by the end of this month. By contrast, Moderna has already found promising results from its early phase trials and launched a trial this week that will enroll 30,000 human participants across the country.

Researchers across the globe are pursuing 166 COVID-19 vaccine candidates, but only about two dozen vaccines are currently being tested in humans, according to the World Health Organization. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves less than 10% of drugs that undergo clinical trials for public use.