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A CDMO or contract development and manufacturing organization is a company contracted to complete key tasks in the development, production and distribution chain. CDMOs are crucial in the fight against Covid-19, helping drive the recovery phase of the global pandemic.

In many ways, these contract pharmaceutical manufacturers have become some of the many unsung heroes of the post-Covid phase. Without these vaccine CDMOs, it is almost impossible to deliver the highly effective vaccines required to keep societies safe.

The CDMO Role in Covid Vaccine Development

How are CDMOs assisting with the development and deployment of the Covid-19 vaccine? How are these third-party organizations driving ongoing research, distribution and roll-out? Read on to learn more.

Filling the Gap in Development and Deployment

It has become almost cliche to say that Covid-19 shattered the status quo in the pharma industry, but it is true. Covid-19 brought with it unprecedented challenges in terms of vaccine development and roll-out. Suddenly, an industry that had previously been developing at a steady rate found that it needed to deliver vaccine doses on an enormous scale, leading to shortfalls in production capacity.

Contract pharmaceutical manufacturers have been drafted in to plug these gaps and eliminate these shortfalls. By partnering with CDMOs, vaccine producers such as Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca have been able to meet the enormous levels of demand.

Fulfilling Roles Adjacent to Covid-19 Vaccine Manufacturing

While vaccine CDMOs such as Emergent Biosolutions and Lonza have been key in the direct increase of Covid-19 inoculation capacity, other CDMOs have also played an important part in the roll-out. It’s important to remember that the need for new Covid-19 vaccines has not replaced the need for existing vaccine production lines — they have simply added to these current needs.

In some cases, vaccine producers have been forced to restructure their operations, shifting non-Covid-19 inoculation development away from their in-house teams and outsourcing these to regulated and approved partners. Basically, CDMOs have taken up the ongoing role of management and production for these non-Covid-19 vaccines, while elite vaccine producers have focused their attention on accelerating the development of new doses aimed at halting the global pandemic.

Reducing the Cost of Development

Increases in capacity and speed of deployment mean increases in other areas too — especially cost. It is an expensive business to produce vaccines at such a scale and at such a rate. If the pharma industry is to keep costs low and avoid crippling the global economic structures that need these vaccines so badly, a new way of doing things is required.

Contract pharmaceutical manufacturers are helping to reduce costs across a number of different areas. Many businesses already outsource key aspects of production, increasing efficiency and reducing expense in the process. The pharma industry is the same, outsourcing key aspects of production to better manage the spiraling costs of vaccine development.

Introducing Flexibility and Versatility to the Process

The development of vaccines is an enormously complex procedure, with a number of different components. These components include work on the pre-formulation of the vaccine, the ongoing development of the formulation, studies into the stability of the vaccine, vaccine inoculation method development, clinical trials across multiple stages, scaling up production, developing commercial manufacturing capabilities, and more.

All of these separate components are critical to the successful formulation of vaccines, which means all areas must be regulated, funded and monitored to the same high level. In other words, the development of a vaccine — especially on the scale we have seen in the face of Covid-19 — is a cumbersome and difficult operation.

If the traditional producers and developers of vaccines are left to handle each of these roles themselves, the procedure becomes inefficient. When the procedure is scaled up to meet the demand of a global pandemic, this inefficiency only increases. This is where vaccine CDMOs have a big role to play. These CDMOs may handle one or more of these development components, focusing their time and resources on the completion of this task.

Separate CDMOs, working together with unified systems, can ensure that each component is completed and signed off in the appropriate way, making the roll-out of the vaccine more efficient and more flexible. If additional work is required at a particular stage of production, the CDMO can either increase its capacity or partner with another CDMO to achieve this, eliminating any potential bottlenecks.

Supporting Ongoing Development and Research

Unfortunately, there is no pre-determined timescale for vaccine roll-out. We’ve already seen how the game has changed and the targets have shifted during the vaccine roll-out, as the need for additional booster shots became evident. New strains such as Delta and Omicron in 2021 underlined the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing efficacy of the vaccines, and work continued in earnest to develop new delivery methods and new forms of inoculation.

To put it simply, the roll-out of the coronavirus vaccine is not over — far from it. There is still the possibility — or even the likelihood — that a new mutation of the virus will necessitate new vaccines, which means the pharma industry will need to rise to a fresh challenge. With CDMOs as part of the vaccine development landscape, it is easier to continue the research required to protect the general public from subsequent Covid-19 waves. There is still a long way to go, and these vaccine CDMOs have an important job to do for many years to come.

Qualified Optimism for Covid-19 Recovery

The Covid landscape of 2022 is one of increased optimism and hope. Compared to the darker days of 2020 and 2021, 2022 feels brighter — it feels like vaccine developers and distributors have achieved great things in this space and are supporting societies across the world as they look to recovery and a return to normality.

But there is no time to rest on laurels. Instead, the pharma industry needs to keep up the pressure, developing and delivering inoculations wherever and whenever they are needed. While this remains the case, contract pharmaceutical manufacturers will still have an important role to play.