Evonik to Build $220M Lipid Plant in U.S. for mRNA-Based Therapies


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The significant success of the mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 is pushing companies across the globe to make greater investments in this approach to treating a myriad of diseases. Increased demand for mRNA therapies means an increased demand for the lipids essential to delivering the medications.

To bolster this need, Germany's Evonik Industries, in partnership with the U.S. government, is investing more than $200 million to build a lipid manufacturing facility in the United States. The company selected a site in Lafayette, Indiana, to support the flexible production of lipids. In its announcement, Evonik said the Tippecanoe site will strengthen the company for "future growth in novel mRNA-based therapies beyond COVID-19 vaccines," as well as strengthen its "leading role as a strategic partner for innovative pharmaceutical companies worldwide."

Evonik is a leading producer of active pharmaceutical ingredients, with a focus on the large-scale manufacturing of highly potent drug substances based on complex chemistry. Pfizer and BioNTech are already using Evonik's lipid technology for the mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine. The mRNA is enclosed in a lipid nanoparticle composed of specific lipids. That protects the mRNA and delivers it safely into the cell, where it is released to combat the virus or other issues of concern. 

The new multi-purpose facility will allow the rapid and flexible production of a variety of lipids. The lipids will enable future applications of mRNA technology in infectious disease control, cancer immunotherapy, protein replacement and gene therapy.

In the case of a future pandemic, Evonik noted that the new Indiana site will ensure a "rapid and extensive supply of lipids as needed in case of a future pandemic." By expanding the production of specialty lipids, Evonik is strengthening its Nutrition & Care division's portfolio of system solutions for advanced drug delivery. 

Construction on the new facility, which has been supported by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), is expected to begin next year, and production is expected to start in 2025. The $220 million investment into the lipid facility will help create more than 80 jobs in the Lafayette region. BARDA is providing $150 million to support construction. Evonik noted that additional support will be provided by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, as well as Greater Lafayette Commerce and Duke Energy.

Evonik Chief Executive Officer Christian Kullmann said the investment into the U.S. site would expand its "leading position" on the global market while bolstering its healthcare business. 

"It supports our strategic transformation into 'Next Generation Evonik', contributing value-added solutions with superior environmental and socio-economic profiles to our customers," Kullmann said. 

Evonik selected the Lafayette area due to the region's existing infrastructure, a highly-skilled workforce and readily available technologies. The Tippecanoe site will be one of the world's largest sites for active pharmaceutical ingredients and the company's second-largest facility in the United States. 

 "As a strategic partner for pharma and biotech companies, we are using the new facility to support our customers in developing nucleic acid-based drugs right up to commercialization. These new therapies are the future," Thomas Riermeier, head of Evonik's health care business, said in a statement. "We are also evaluating further expansion of our formulation services and scale-up capacity, thereby consolidating our leading position as an end-to-end provider." 

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