After a year surviving a crushing pandemic, the one element that sheds a light to the end of this dark year is COVID-19 vaccines. Without them, nations would be locked down out of fear of the deadly virus that has killed millions.

But how do companies research, develop, and produce vaccines when everything is closed down? Furthermore, how can companies prepare vaccines in a short amount of time and produce them for billions of patients? How can they ensure that these life-saving medications are available for public consumption?

Contract development manufacturing companies, or CDMOs, are the unsung heroes in this pandemic. These companies work with top pharmaceutical companies and researchers to help shorten the process. They then work around the clock to produce vaccines and other drugs for public consumption in a safe, sterile environment. Pharmaceutical companies and researchers working together with CDMOs can bring the world out of the darkness that is COVID-19 and into a brighter future.

CDMOs build their reputations on the clients they work with, the services they offer, and the quality of products made by the company itself. In the past year, only a handful of CDMOs distinguished themselves with top services and clients. The secret to their success was tireless dedication to the mission of preparing and distributing COVID-19 vaccines.

Four Different Approaches to COVID-19

The top four CDMOs all achieved success in 2020 and were able to extend their quality services to the top pharmaceutical companies and researchers. Here are the top four CDMOs and their groundbreaking approaches to developing and distributing medication.

Samsung Biologics

One of South Korea’s top companies and a fierce global competitor, Samsung Biologics hit the ground running in 2020 and was able to meet the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic head-on. The company made over 1 trillion won (890,559,900 USD) in sales during 2020, and brought a 66 percent increase to the business’ overall revenue.

“As we mark the 10th-year anniversary of Samsung Biologics this year, we set forth our growth plan for the next decade to become a fully-integrated end-to-end service provider,” said CEO John Rim. “Despite the global uncertainties with the ongoing pandemic, Samsung Biologics demonstrated outstanding operational excellence and business agility even during such extraordinary circumstances.”

Multiple partnerships were made with top pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca. Samsung Biologics’ quality processing system makes for tight integration between two systems: drug substance manufacturing and asceptic fill-finish operations. With these two roles working together, wait times can be significantly lessened. These innovations make Samsung Biologics a top competitor among CDMOs.

Rim also focused on the future endeavors of the company, which would include a rapid expansion of the company’s CDMO and its biosimilar affiliate. New business models will also be built as a part of a multidimensional portfolio expansion. Samsung Biologics also plans to finish building a fourth plant that will offer the largest single-site manufacturing capacity of any facility on earth.


The Swiss CDMO Lonza, considered to be one of the world’s oldest pharmaceutical companies, has also met success during the COVID-19 pandemic. It partnered with Chinese pharmaceutical company Junshi Biosciences to help create a neutralizing antibody drug for the treatment of COVID-19.

“The signing of this collaboration indicates that the relationship between the two parties has been taken to a new level. As a major milestone for Lonza’s biopharmaceutical facility in Guangzhou, the collaboration also demonstrates Lonza’s vision to provide high-quality and reliable services for local pharmaceutical companies under the CDMO model,” said Jeff Li, VP of Commercial Development at Lonza.

The agreement details that Lonza will provide cell line construction and development, a supply of cell culture media and reagents, process development, and GMP manufacturing. The thorough support will help Junshi continue to develop ground-breaking medication.

Furthermore, the company worked with Moderna to manufacture 400 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine annually. This agreement includes four more facilities to be built to speed up production.


Swiss CDMO Siegfried has managed to make a name for itself and expand during the pandemic, despite the odds. Siegfried partnered with BioNTech, a German immunotherapy company, that helped create the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Siegfried agreed to fill and package this vaccine for public consumption.

Two pharmaceutical sites in Spain were acquired by Siegfried in 2020. “This acquisition is perfectly in line with our corporate strategy EVOLVE and represents another major step towards our vision to create one of the most competitive integrated global networks in the CDMO industry,” said Dr. Wolfgang Weinand, CEO of Siegfried.

In 2020, Siegfried had a 10.4 percent increase in profit and implemented a new corporate strategy for growth and development. “As a leading CDMO company with a strong global manufacturing network, Siegfried is in a position to take on technologically demanding tasks at short notice and to quickly build up the necessary capacities,” said Wienand.


The United States, with over 300 million people, offers a vast opportunity for CDMOs who are looking to expand. Cambrex, a leading drug company, has taken advantage of the opportunity, investing over $50 million in three new facilities and a mid-scale work center in the United States.

The company was also recognized in February for its top capabilities and practices by the annual CMO Leadership awards. These categories include capabilities, compatibility, expertise, quality, reliability, and service.

“Congratulations to all the 2021 CMO Leadership Award winners; you keep the biopharma industry moving forward. An award in any category – capabilities, compatibility, expertise, quality, reliability and service – acknowledges your advanced leadership and effective execution and that rare flexibility to serve all customers through even the most difficult of times,” said Conference Chair Louis Garguilo.

CEO Tom Loewald stated, “Demand for small molecule manufacturing constantly grows and evolves, and we are committed to investing in the capacity, capabilities and expertise to further strengthen our position as a market-leading CDMO delivering customized, customer-centric solutions.”