Published on Mon 07/27/20
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A federal task order reserves, at a $265 million price tag, production capacity at the Texas A&M University System Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing through the end of 2021. FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, Texas, owns and operates CIADM’s three facilities as a Texas A&M System subcontractor. FUJIFILM is slated to use one of the facilities to manufacture the COVID-19 vaccine candidate of Novavax Inc.
In a phone interview midday Monday, A&M System Chancellor John Sharp described the development as “a triple win” for Texas A&M, for FUJIFILM and for the nation that has been a decade in the making. Sharp explained that the center was one of three developed in the U.S. in response to the H1N1 flu pandemic of 2009.
“We’ve known this day was coming and we’ve been ready for it. The center is ready to save lives and help protect the country. It’s a win for [FUJIFILM], a win for us because we got back every penny of what we invested in it, and it’s a win for the federal government,” Sharp said. “The best thing about it for Texas A&M is that it allows us to fulfill one of our great missions as a land grant institution, and that is service,” Sharp said.
In a Monday afternoon press conference, Trump said the effort was one part of Operation Warp Speed, a wide-ranging project designed to begin delivering millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of the year — if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration determines candidates are safe and effective. Trump noted that COVID-19 vaccine efforts are moving at much faster rates than usual.
“These same manufacturing processes are being conducted on an even larger scale in College Station, Texas. I’m proud to announce that HHS has just signed a $265 million contract with the FUJIFILM Texas A&M innovation center, which is quite the place, to dramatically expand their manufacturing capacity,” Trump said Monday. “We will achieve a victory over the virus by unleashing America’s scientific genius.”
Novavax has been awarded $1.6 billion by the U.S. government to complete late-stage clinical development, establish large-scale manufacturing — and deliver 100 million doses of Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
The FUJIFILM plant in North Carolina, where Trump visited Monday, is already producing the Novavax vaccine candidate for its clinical trials, according to the Monday press conference. FUJIFILM is slated to transfer the manufacturing process to College Station for bulk production in early 2021.
The task order also will accelerate a planned expansion at the facility by helping fund new equipment for use in the current pandemic and future emergencies.
Sharp said the vaccine production effort is one of numerous ways that researchers, scholars and students in the Texas A&M University System are working to mitigate and ultimately eradicate COVID-19.
“There are all kinds of a really amazing number of people in a variety of professions working to combat the pandemic,” Sharp said, lifting up Bush School personnel, engineers and Health Science Center scholars as examples, among others.
“This validates why the CIADM program was established,” W. Jay Treat, Texas A&M’s chief manufacturing officer for the CIADM, said in the A&M System press release. “We have state-of-the-art facilities ready to make millions doses of vaccines to meet the critical needs of our citizens.”