How the company that makes glass for your iPhone produces vials for Covid vaccines


Corning is known for the Gorilla Glass on iPhones and the cookware we use during Thanksgiving. Something it’s less known for is its contribution to the world of pharmaceuticals, but it is rapidly growing that portion of its business.

Corning just opened a new pharmaceutical vial manufacturing factory in Durham, North Carolina, where it said it can produce 500 million glass vials per year to improve the domestic supply chain and deliver Covid-19 vaccines and other drugs to the U.S. and abroad. The factory was developed and deployed in record time thanks in part to the $204 million funding from the federal government as a part of Operation Warp Speed, the program that funded development of the Covid vaccines.

Corning said its vials have enabled the delivery of more than 3 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines over the past 18 months.

Corning’s pharmaceutical vial factory in Durham, North Carolina


Corning is also unveiling a new product called Velocity Vials, which are specially engineered vials that it says speed up the manufacturing process.

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Catalent has started filling Velocity Vials with Covid vaccines.

“We have found that their vials, because of the coating, actually have a faster throughput rate for us on the equipment that we use,” said Denis Johnson, vice president and general manager of Catalent’s largest site in Bloomington, Indiana. “We’re seeing a double-digit improvement in our throughput rates on our machines, which equates to more doses for patients. And in a pandemic, that’s critical.”

Corning CEO Wendell Weeks said the company plans to expand the North Carolina factory until it is “one of the largest pharmaceutical packaging manufacturing plants in the world” and that he expects to grow the pharmaceutical vial portion of the business.

“Today it’s tiny, I mean, versus our $14 billion in revenue that we’ll have this year, it’s tiny,” Weeks said. “But it’s not about the next two years, three years, it’s really beyond that, and we think this is billions of dollars of opportunity for us. We’re quite certain of it.”

The pharmaceutical glass packaging market is expected to grow to a $7.46 billion market by 2028 from $4.02 billion in 2021, according to Grand View Research.

Watch the video to see how vials are made and to get an exclusive first look inside Corning’s new Durham, North Carolina, factory.


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