Stevanato has been ramping up for a Covid-19 vaccine for months. The firm hired more than 580 new workers in the first six months of 2020. In late June, Stevanato signed a deal with Norway’s Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations (CEPI), a Gates Foundation-backed group that is assisting with scaling nine different Covid-19 vaccine projects — including efforts by Boston-based biotech Moderna and Oxford University — to supply 100 million borosilicate glass vials for up to 2 billion doses of vaccine.
Vaccines, like most injectable drugs, need to be packaged in sterile glass. Glass is essentially impermeable to corrupting gases like oxygen while even high-grade plastic lets some air inside. Making these vials was a big business even before Covid-19 appeared in January. Last year, the global pharmaceutical industry purchased some 12 billion vials. The Stevanato Group, a 71-year-old family-owned firm, provided more than 2 billion of those (The company is also the world’s largest manufacturer of cartridges for insulin pens). A Covid-19 vaccine, which likely will have to be administered in two separate injections, will require billions of additional vials. Stevanato expects the pandemic to drive up demand for its glass vials by 20% over the next two years.