Federal funding allowed Corning to expand the high-volume manufacturing facility, fortifying industry in North Carolina and supporting the United States’ global vaccination efforts.

One glass vial can store multiple doses of a life-saving vaccine. With an expansion in Durham, North Carolina, Corning's high-volume manufacturing facility can produce up to 500 million vials, which can store nearly 4.3 billion doses annually and aid the progress of public health.

Corning has helped combat COVID-19, ramping up production of its damage-resistant Valor® Glass vials and enabling delivery of over 3 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the past 20 months. Along with Valor Glass, the Durham facility will manufacture Corning's new Velocity® Vials, Corning Pharmaceutical Technologies' recently announced innovative technology that directly responds to pharmaceutical supply-chain challenges. The coated borosilicate vials are engineered to improve drug quality and increase pharmaceutical filling line efficiency, compared to conventional borosilicate vials.

Approximately $261 million of federal funding from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) allowed Corning to expand production at Durham and two other Life Sciences facilities. BARDA, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services office, works with industry partners to secure the development of the necessary vaccines, drugs, therapies, and diagnostic tools for public health medical emergencies.

The scope of the facility would not be possible without Corning employees, said Brendan Mosher, vice president and general manager, Corning Pharmaceutical Technologies, who, at the end of his remarks, paused for a round of applause for factory workers during the ribbon cutting event held outside, just in-front of the new facility. 

"As I reflect back to the beginning of the expansion project, the challenges we faced, compounded by the onset of the global pandemic, and now being here today to celebrate this tremendous milestone – it's truly nothing short of remarkable," Brendan said. "I could not be more proud of the many employees you see behind you who have worked tirelessly to make this possible."

Ron Verkleeren, senior vice president and general manager, Corning Life Sciences, recognized industry partners Moderna, Merck, Pfizer, Catalent, and Thermo Fisher, along with government supporters from U.S. Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Defense, North Carolina's state government, and Durham's local government for supporting Corning's contribution to the health of Americans and supporting the United States' global vaccination efforts.

"In times of great need, Corning has partnered with customers and our government to make a positive impact for the public good," Verkleeren said. "The pandemic presented a new set of supply chain problems for the industry. This facility significantly expands the domestic supply of pharmaceutical vials for the current pandemic and for future pandemics – greatly improving the domestic industrial base for a critical component of the vaccine supply chain."

Following the ribbon cutting, attendees toured the facility, experiencing Corning's manufacturing expertise and approximately 575 North Carolina employees coming together to help end the COVID-19 pandemic. Corning, which employs over 5,000 employees in North Carolina and is ranked one of the top employers in the state by Forbes, is looking to fill another 100 positions by year's end in Durham.

Machelle Sanders, North Carolina Secretary of Commerce, acknowledged Corning as a leading employer in North Carolina since 1966.

"Corning has been operating in North Carolina for 55 years and continues to demonstrate its commitment to the state by manufacturing products ranging from optical fiber to life sciences vessels and now pharmaceutical glass packaging," Machelle said, noting Corning's importance in enabling the supply chain, which affects millions of people. "As Corning continues to expand in North Carolina, it is clear that they recognize that, like other businesses that come here to our state, that the top benefit of operating in our state is our talented workforce."

The workforce at Durham currently handles the facility's annual capacity of 185 million vials (or approximately 1.6 billion doses), meeting BARDA's contract terms within 15 months – three months ahead of schedule. The facility has over 224,000 square feet of manufacturing space, including eight converting lines, three IOX tanks, two wash lines, one drying oven, and three coating lines, along with supporting equipment and spare parts.

"Corning is built on a commitment to innovation and helping our customers solve tough problems," said Eric Musser, Corning's president and chief operating officer, at Thursday's ribbon-cutting ceremony in Durham. "I'm confident that we are going to continue to build on our life sciences and pharmaceutical technologies franchises here in North Carolina, establishing ourselves and our capabilities as a leading global supplier of pharmaceutical glass packaging."

During the ceremony, Nikki Bratcher-Bowman, principal deputy assistant secretary for Preparedness and Response, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, gave a nod to the collaboration that made pandemic-fighting a reality.

"This ribbon cutting is a tangible symbol of the foresight, partnership, and commitment from the federal government and private industry partners," Bratcher-Bowman said. "This represents what we have seen consistently throughout this pandemic, the necessity of public-private partnership in an 'all of America response' to the current pandemic and to help ensure our communities and our country are better prepared for the next health security threat."