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Cytiva, a Massachusetts-based research and biopharma manufacturing specialist, will shell out $52.5 million to build a plant in South Korea to make disposable cell-culture bags used in vaccine production.

With the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry under enormous stress to quickly produce COVID-19 vaccines, a shortage of large, sterile plastic bags used to grow vaccine cells has become a global concern. It’s a problem the World Health Organization has highlighted.

At a World Bank-sponsored panel discussion earlier this year, Adar Poonawallo of the Serum Institute of India cited the shortage as one hindrance to defeating the pandemic.

“If we’re talking about building (vaccine manufacturing) capacity all over the world, the sharing of these critical raw materials is going to become a limiting factor—nobody has been able to address this so far,” he said.

The Cytiva news came this week in New York during a Korea-U.S. global vaccine partnership signing ceremony. Cytiva, a subsidiary of conglomerate Danaher, also debuted an agreement at the meeting to supply Prestige Biopharma with bioprocessing equipment to help speed up the production of multiple vaccines and biologics.

“We have reached a point where we need rapid and close collaboration between global vaccine companies as the vaccine shortage has continued due to the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic,” Park So-yeon, chief executive of Prestige, told the Korea Biomedical Review. “We will try to contribute to resolving the global vaccine supply shortage by using our vaccine production facilities most efficiently.”

RELATED: Plastic bag shortage a hefty problem for Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine production push

Meanwhile, South Korea touts itself as having the second-largest biopharma production capacity in the world. Officials there have previously said it will invest $18 billion in the next five years to become a global vaccine hub.

Danaher, which acquired Cytiva from GE in 2019 for $21.4 billion, announced in July its second-quarter revenues shot up 36.5% to $7.2 billion compared to the same period a year ago. 

For its part, Cytiva last fall received $31 million from the Department of Health and Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to expand manufacturing capacity at its Massachusetts facilities and build duplicate infrastructure at its Utah site.

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