Editor's note: This story was updated to include additional comments from Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing President and CEO Tom Ross.
GRAND RAPIDS — A Grand Rapids pharmaceutical producer has landed a major $160 million federal contract to produce a new COVID-19 vaccine once it’s ready and available.
Under the contract with the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services, Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing Inc.’s production and distribution capacity would support getting a vaccine or COVID-19 therapeutics to market.
“We are extremely honored to be chosen to serve our country and help respond to the demands and challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic,” President and CEO Tom Ross said in a statement. “As a homegrown company with a strong culture built on teamwork and accountability, our team will confidently deliver the safest and highest-quality solutions that will ultimately be life-saving for the American people.”
Through the contract, the federal government essentially reserved the company’s production and distribution capacity for a vaccine that a number of pharmaceutical companies are working to develop through a partnership known as “Operation Warp Speed.”
Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing would use capacity recently opened through a $60 million, 60,000-square-foot expansion completed this summer. The new facility tripled the company’s production capacity.
The announcement today said the company “is well-equipped to support the pharmaceutical supply chain’s critical needs by offering state-of-the-art technology and delivering high quality products.”
“By providing the capacity to perform advanced aseptic fill and finish services — the last two steps in the manufacturing process for vaccines or other therapeutics — GRAM is helping to ensure that the country will have sufficient domestic supply to make life-saving biopharmaceutical products available to Americans as quickly as possible,” the company said.
The contract was awarded by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a part of the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the Defense Department’s Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense, and the Army Contracting Command.
Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing employs about 210 people at five facilities in Grand Rapids and will need to hire 75 to 100 new employees within the next few months, ranging from entry level positions to “highly technical” positions, Ross said.
The federal contract accelerates the company’s growth and takes Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing “to the big leagues” of contract pharmaceutical manufacturers for sterile injectable drugs, Ross said.
“We’re instantly a much bigger company,” he said in an interview with MiBiz. “It’s just an incredible opportunity for us. The ability to work on a life-saving drug like this is something that’s beyond our wildest dreams and to be able to help.”