A life science company plans to hire nearly 700 workers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire to ramp up production of key supplies to drug makers racing to develop vaccines for COVID-19.
Burlington-based MilliporeSigma said it will spend $47 million to increase capacity at its facilities in Danvers and in Jaffrey, N.H., underscoring the prominent role that another local company is playing in the global effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
A subsidiary of the German firm Merck KGaA, MilliporeSigma won’t say which individual vaccine makers will be served by the expansion, but noted it counts more than 50 drug makers developing COVID-19 treatments as customers.
“These investments will strengthen our global manufacturing footprint, allowing us to meet this unprecedented demand and help get lifesaving vaccines and therapies to more patients, faster,” said Chris Ross, interim chief executive of MilliporeSigma, in a press release.
Pfizer, which operates a manufacturing plant in Andover, has said it expects to have up to 50 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine available globally by the end of the year. Another local company, Cambridge-based Moderna, expects to have 20 million doses available by the end the year in the United States. Both drug firms are awaiting emergency use approval from the US Food and Drug Administration.
For MilliporeSigma, the planned expansion will add 65,000 square feet to its 120,000-square-foot facility in Danvers, and add roughly 400 jobs in 2021. Currently, the facility employs about 550 employees, and another 1,350 work out of Burlington and Bedford.
In Jaffrey, the company will spend $22 million to add 25,000 square feet, with the goal of hiring 275 new workers by 2022.
According to Ross, the pandemic has heightened the demand for MilliporeSigma’s products, such as those that make drug manufacturing processes faster and more cost-effective. Although the company does not assemble or produce vaccines in its facilities, it develops the supplies that drug makers need to make them.
In Danvers, for example, workers make a type of durable plastic bag that companies can use to make vaccine ingredients. Company spokeswoman Rachel Bloom-Baglin said this product was MilliporeSigma’s fastest-growing line of business, even before the pandemic.
Of the roughly 700 new hires that MilliporeSigma plans to bring on, Bloom-Baglin said positions will vary from assembling and cutting materials to running quality tests.
If the FDA approves emergency use of the first vaccines, Governor Charlie Baker has said he expects Massachusetts to receive roughly 300,000 doses of the first COVID-19 vaccines in the coming weeks.