Swiss gov helps Lonza recruit staff to manufacture Moderna vaccine

The Swiss government has recruited at least 25 workers to operate the production lines at Lonza’s facility in Visp.

Contract development manufacturing organization (CDMO) Lonza has been supporting Moderna since May 2020 to manufacture its cell-free messenger RNA (mRNA) COVID-19 vaccine.

However, there have been concerns regarding supply delays and it was even alleged the CDMO had tapped fellow Swiss company Nestle for workers in order to service its deal to produce drug substance for hundreds of millions of doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.

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Now, the Swiss government has stepped in to recruit staff for Lonza. It said in a fact sheet that the supply of the Moderna vaccine is of “paramount importance for Switzerland,” but acknowledged the difficulties to recruit skilled workers.

As Lonza is dependent on additional skilled employees to work the production lines in Visp at full capacity, the federal government has prioritized this as an area of concern and slowed certain projects down for a period of time.

According to the state, the hired employees will have a chemical, biochemical, or pharmaceutical background and are sourced from the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office, the Federal Institute for Metrology,  Agroscope, the Institute for Virology and Immunology and the Spiez Laboratory of the Federal Office for Civil Protection.

Its aim is to have the first employees in Visp by mid-May for around six months and while the workers will remain employed by the federal government, Lonza will be responsible for full wage costs, meals, travel, accommodation, and social benefits.

The Swiss government says Lonza is in direct contact with Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL university) and Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH university) to clarify how many employees are available and how long for.

So far, the government has found around 25 skilled employees, which retain the experience and skill set to fill key positions in vaccine production. However, Reuters and other media outlets have reported the total number of skilled workers set to support Lonza will be 75.

Lonza refused to comment on the number of employees it looks to temporarily hire. However, it did confirm it was receiving assistance from the state.

“The Swiss Federal Government is supporting Lonza in the recruitment of highly qualified specialists,” a spokesperson from Lonza told BioProcess Insider. “We greatly appreciate this help during this time of urgent global demand.”

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