Just in time to gear up for the looming influenza season and address the sporadic late in the season squall of the respiratory disease, Seqirus - which is owned by global biotech leader CSL - completed an expansion to its Holly Springs, North Carolina facility that added 80 skilled jobs and a surge to production capabilities.
“As one of the world's leading influenza vaccine manufacturers, we’re driven by our promise to protect human health. So, we’re continuously looking for opportunities to advance capabilities and support efficient, sustained supply of new and existing technologies. Today’s milestone is evidence of that promise,” said Steve Marlow, General Manager, Seqirus.
That commitment manifested itself in an additional state-of-the-art fill-finish line at the Holly Springs facility, where fill-finish is the final stage of a vaccine’s journey through manufacturing.
Fill means to fill the syringes with the vaccine.
Finish includes labeling, packaging and quality inspection before the vaccines leave the manufacturer.
While it’s a process that sounds simple, it’s one of the most important steps in the manufacturing process and it’s actually more nuanced than one might think, said Dave Sehgal, Vice President of Manufacturing and Site Head at Holly Springs.
“Years ago, when I first started working in fill-finish, I remember thinking to myself, ‘I'm going to be working in an area where all we're doing is filling liquid into a syringe’…. But when you actually do that work, you realize how complex it is, how difficult it is and how important it is that you get it right, every single time, for the safety of our patients,” he said.
In the U.S. biopharmaceutical industry, fill-finish has been cited as a barrier to vaccine production especially in the face of a pandemic. Therefore, by having more than double the capacity, Seqirus can support a more efficient and timely production of its influenza vaccines. This enables Seqirus to get filled syringes out the door, into temperature regulated trucks or planes and into the hands of health care providers much more quickly.
Maria Lacourt Cuevas, head of fill-finish at the North Carolina site, explained that the $156 million expansion, which began in 2018, represents much more than overcoming a common industry production bottleneck.
“I think the significance of bringing this line in our business for Seqirus and for CSL is to make sure that we have more opportunities to support public health," she said.
That’s the ultimate reason why we do this, said Rodney Lam, the site’s head of engineering.
“For us, it's all about our patients and the importance of being able to deliver doses on time for a season and also in the event of a flu pandemic, where we would be able to respond more rapidly to support the U.S. in the future,” he said.
This has undoubtably been an investment in the future of public health, but also in the local economy and in Seqirus as a company.
“Anytime you can add that type of capacity, you add new jobs, you add new people. It increases our ability to collaborate and grow as an organization,” Lam said.
To learn more about the fill-finish expansion, click here to read the press release.