With assistance from Siemens, the BioNTech SE biotechnology company, based in Mainz, Germany, has converted a facility in Marburg for the production of the COVID-19 vaccine in a record time. The plant has been producing the vaccine BNT162b2 (also known as COMIRNATY®) since the end of March.
The production facility was already equipped with capabilities for producing biotechnological substances when BioNTech acquired it in the fall of 2020. Initially, the project timeline for converting the existing facility for the production of the mRNA-vaccine was around one year, but through a collaboration with Siemens and a team of experts on site in Marburg, we cut that timeline down to five months. The implementation time for key parts of a new Siemens Manufacturing Execution System (MES) was reduced to two and half months. This new system and the end-to-end digitalization of vaccine production enabled a conversion to “paperless documentation of production” that can immediately fulfill all documentation requirements, which is a critical component to vaccine efficacy.
The speed and synergy of this new production have bearing on vaccine production in the U.S. and around the world, as digitalization clearly has a role in making quick advances in the medical response to the pandemic. Siemens and BioNTech enjoy a long tradition of partnership and collaboration and have intensified their cooperation for COVID-19 vaccine production. At Marburg, Siemens products control the entire process flow.
The speed and synergy of this new production have bearing on vaccine production in the U.S. and around the world, as digitalization clearly has a role in making quick advances in the medical response to the pandemic.
The Siemens Opcenter Execution Pharma MES is used at the Marburg facility to orchestrate subsystems and processes and to analyze their quality. In this way, production processes can be automatically developed, optimized and managed. mRNA processes encompass a number of manual work steps, such as weighing, which can now be performed by Siemens weighing systems, as precise measurement of weight is vital for ensuring product quality.
All the production systems in Marburg were modified for automation using the Simatic PCS 7 process control system, which controls and regulates the system processes. Other key production parts include network technology, WLAN access points, communication technology and the TIA Portal engineering framework. Siemens supports the system implementation for production startup at BioNTech with in-depth, on-call service.
Using Siemens technology, the Marburg facility is now set to produce about a quarter of the 2.5 billon doses Pfizer and BioNTech pledged this year.
From the design of production facilities, to conquering supply challenges, to the development of the vaccine itself, our software and hardware has been instrumental in delivering the opportunity to receive a safe, effective vaccine much sooner than many people could have ever dreamed. And we continue to show the world that with innovation anything is humanly possible.