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Coons: U.S. must update, expand vaccine manufacturing capacity

Delaware News Desk
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, highlighted on March 31 the urgent need to update and expand our domestic vaccine manufacturing capacity, including at four federally funded vaccine development and manufacturing sites, to confront COVID-19.

With public health officials noting the existing facilities’ limited role to date in countering this pandemic, Coons helped secure $3.5 billion in the relief package signed by President Donald Trump last week for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. The funding will be used in part for the development of manufacturing technologies to ensure a robust, U.S.-based supply chain of vaccines, therapeutics and active pharmaceutical ingredients.

“The biggest challenge we face in the United States is not developing a vaccine, tricky as that step is,”said Coons. “It’s that we lack the domestic manufacturing capacity to quickly produce a vaccine once it’s proven and deliver it to the American people. This funding will help develop cutting-edge technology so we can upgrade existing sites to address COVID-19 and support a network of advanced facilities around the country to prevent, prepare for and respond to the next pandemic. We cannot afford to be caught flat-footed when American lives and our security are at risk.”

The nation’s four federal biopharmaceutical manufacturing sites were envisioned as agile facilities that could rapidly make vaccines and other therapeutics. Recent manufacturing platforms have the potential to reinforce that mission by expanding the facilities’ capacity to ramp up production of countermeasures for diverse or multiple threats. The funding Coons secured will support the demonstration of next-generation manufacturing platforms so they can be quickly deployed in these facilities, thereby facilitating rapid production. The $3.5 billion appropriated to BARDA will also be used to purchase and manufacture vaccines, diagnostics and other key tools.

In addition to securing funding for BARDA, Coons led a bipartisan, bicameral effort to prevent Manufacturing Extension Partnership, or MEP, centers from shuttering and to make sure they are used as a resource during the pandemic. Across all 50 states and Puerto Rico, the MEP network provides manufacturers with resources to promote growth, expand capacity and adapt to change.

Coons is continuing to work to scale up biopharmaceutical manufacturing capacity in the fourth coronavirus relief package, including by building infrastructure for fast, aggressive development of new technology.