Auburn’s SiO2 facility plans $163M expansion to ramp up production of vaccine vials

Auburn’s SiO2 facility plans $163M expansion to ramp up production of vaccine vials
SiO2's patented vials combine the best properties of plastic and glass to create containers that are ideal for biological drugs and vaccines. (contributed)

Gov. Kay Ivey announced that SiO2 Materials Science plans to invest $163 million in an expansion at its Auburn facility after securing a major contract to supply the federal government with vials to support the COVID-19 vaccine effort. The project will create 220 jobs.

The expansion will allow SiO2 to increase its production capacity to meet the U.S. government’s critical need for vials and syringes while maintaining the existing production needs of other customers, including pharmaceutical companies.

“It is exciting to know that SiO2 will be directly involved in providing a product essential to addressing the COVID-19 crisis, which will impact not only Alabamians but the entire country,” Ivey said.

“This is a testament to the ingenuity of this great company and its growing Alabama workforce.”

Patented technology

In June, SiO2 announced a $143 million contract with federal government agencies for a production scale-up of the company’s state-of-the-art packaging platform for storing novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) vaccines and therapeutics.

Over the past 10 years, SiO2 has developed its patented vial platform, which combines a plastic container with a microscopic glass coating on the inside that is ideal for biological drugs and vaccines.

The product, developed in Auburn with the help of experts from four major U.S. research institutions, combines the benefits of glass and plastic without drawbacks.

“There are problems with plastic, and there are problems with glass, and we resolve all of them,” said SiO2 CEO Bobby Abrams.

SiO2 plans to invest $163 million in an expansion at its Auburn facility after securing a major contract to supply the federal government with vials to support the COVID-19 vaccine effort. The project will create 220 jobs. (contributed)

Critical component

SiO2 will expand its facility at 2250 Riley St. and invest in a new molding facility at 2425 Innovation Drive, both in Auburn Technology Park West.

Construction is underway on the expansion. The completed 70,000-square-foot facility will increase the production capacity of SiO2’s injection molding operation.

“We’re proud to have some of the world’s leading scientists and product developers working in our community,” Auburn Mayor Ron Anders said. “With the presence of these companies and Auburn University’s outstanding medical and engineering programs, we believe we’ll see significant growth in the biotech industry right here in Auburn.

“On top of that, the well-paying jobs created through this project will result in significant economic opportunities for our local businesses.”

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said SiO2’s expansion project will help ensure that the nation’s health authorities have an ample supply of vials and syringes to administer a vaccine for COVID-19.

“Having a steady supply of SiO2’s innovative vials will represent a key strategic advantage for federal agencies wanting to act rapidly once a vaccine is available to counter the coronavirus,” he said.

“There are problems with plastic, and there are problems with glass, and we resolve all of them,” said SiO2 CEO Bobby Abrams. The company’s vials will be used to hold the COVID-19 vaccine once it is developed. (contributed)

Enhanced safety

A key element of SiO2’s product is enhanced safety for health care providers and for patients, who are at a lower risk of adverse side effects. The combination of plastic and microscopic layer of glass means vials and syringes won’t break, shatter or crack. SiO2 ships its products worldwide.

“Many drug development and drug formulation innovations can be limited due to variables associated with traditional glass vials and syringes,” said Dr. Robert Langer, David H. Koch Institute professor at MIT and a company adviser.

“The SiO2 vials and syringes eliminate these variables and allow drug development partners to bring their innovations to life.”

SiO2 is a privately owned company based in Auburn, where it has about 200 employees. The Retirement Systems of Alabama provided early financial support for the company.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

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