Fighting COVID-19 together
Solutions from SCHOTT play an important role in countless applications – including the fight against COVID-19. Chairman of the Board of Management Dr. Frank Heinricht discusses the company’s commitment during the pandemic in an interview.
Dr. Heinricht, where are SCHOTT products used in the fight against COVID-19?
We are involved on several fronts with our products: First and foremost, with our pharmaceutical primary packaging. We supply millions of glass vials in which a potential COVID-19 vaccine or drugs used to treat the disease can be safely stored. We are also involved with our diagnostics business. Our customers develop rapid tests using our coated glass substrates to determine whether a person is infected with the virus. Laryngoscopes equipped with our light-conducting glass fibers are yet another example. These are used by doctors in the treatment of critically ill corona patients to improve vision during intubation.
What is the chance that the first COVID-19 vaccines will be administered from SCHOTT vials?
That’s quite likely. Today, three out of four vaccine projects in clinical phases I, II or III use our pharmaceutical vials. We have concluded firm agreements with most leading pharmaceutical companies, including partners in the US government’s “Operation Warp Speed.” We have already delivered millions of glass vials to SARS-CoV-2 programs. Adding up the volume of all the projects we are involved in, we will supply vials for around 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021. It should be noted that several doses can be filled, depending on the size of the pharmaceutical vial.
How are you mastering this challenge?
SCHOTT produces eleven billion pharmaceutical packaging units each year. Vials made of borosilicate glass account for a large share of these. The vials needed for COVID-19 vaccine projects are ISO-standard vials that we manufacture millions of times a day at our plants. In addition, the demand for pharmaceutical glass and packaging was steadily on the rise even before corona, and, in March 2019, we announced the largest investment program in the company’s history to date, namely $1 billion in our pharmaceutical division. We will have already completed 50% of this by the end of 2021. Thanks to the early investment, we are already in a position to ramp up capacity. And we are saving valuable time because our 20 glass and converting plants worldwide have been validated by authorities and major pharmaceutical companies, i.e. are approved for use in the pharmaceutical industry.
How important are the vials and what responsibility does SCHOTT bear here?
The packaging is an integral part of every medication. Without pharmaceutical vials like ours, vital vaccines cannot reach patients. In addition to the dimensional and cosmetic quality of a vial, the material plays a particularly important role. The main material used is borosilicate glass, which has long been the gold standard for drug packaging. The material is chemically inert, which means that it avoids interaction between the packaging and the vaccine. The effectiveness of the drug is thus preserved. Since we produce the pharmaceutical glass for the packaging ourselves, we are also able to adjust the capacities for glass production in advance.
Do you have a final message for our readers?
I think I speak for everyone when I say that the pandemic poses a major challenge. We are proud that our products receive so much trust and that we are actively participating in the fight against COVID-19. We will continue to do our utmost to support our customers and partners with high-quality solutions. After all, close cooperation is essential, especially in times like these.