Germany-based biomedical company Evonik says the expansion of its facility in Lafayette will help ensure that the U.S. is prepared for another pandemic. The company announced in early June it will build an additional facility at its current site in Tippecanoe County to manufacture lipids, molecules that encapsulate and deliver mRNA vaccines to cells in the body. The technology was used in the production of two COVID treatments.
In an interview with Business of Health reporter Kylie Veleta, Evonik Global Project Manager Yvonne Hurt said mRNA technology shows promise in the treatment of other diseases.
“As the future of medicine, mRNA can be used to treat COVID. Potential areas could be the flu, Zika, HIV, or even cancer,” said Hurt. “It’s currently actually the most advanced way to deliver drugs.”
Evonik operates two lipid producing plants in Germany. Their output was used in the Pfizer/BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine. Hurt says the Lafayette plant, the company’s first lipid plant in the U.S., will be able out-produce the European facilities.
Evonik says the $220 million investment to expand operations in Lafayette will be offset by more than $150 million from the federal government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
That investment puts the U.S. government at the head of the line when responding to another pandemic.
“This new facility really ensures a rapid and extensive supply of lipids in case of a future pandemic,” said Hurt. “The U.S. government gets priority access for a 10-year period and most favorite customer pricing on those lipids.”
Evonik already operates a plant in Tippecanoe County, producing pharmaceutical ingredients. It employs 650 workers. The new plant will eventually employ up to 80 high-skill jobs in the areas of operations, engineering, and quality assurance.
Construction is set to begin in 2023 and the company will begin hiring for positions in Lafayette in 2024. Evonik plans for the new plant to become operational in 2025.