Spotlight Evonik: The Tiny Protective Layer that Makes a Big Difference in the Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine

June 23, 2021
By Knowledge Leaders Team in Knowledge Leaders

Germany-based Evonik is a world leader in specialty chemicals, describing its contribution as “those small amounts of material that make a big difference.” Big indeed: this year the company began delivering the lipid nanoparticle shell for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, a protective shell that transports the vaccine’s mRNA into human cells, where it is then released and can take effect. By repurposing two plants in Germany, Evonik was able to set up the urgently needed production teams in just eight weeks (a process that usually takes at least a year) and deliver its lipid technology months ahead of schedule.

Why does this Knowledge Leader hold leadership positions in 80 percent of the markets into which it sells? The answer lies in Evonik’s consistent focus on specialty chemicals. The firm’s R&D strategy aims to form close collaborations with customers and partners focused on ambitious goals with clear strategies and a culture of trust, respect, and the willingness to take risks. Evonik puts these principles to work in each of its five divisions: specialty additives, nutrition and care, smart materials, performance materials, and technology and infrastructure. Other recent products include a silica filler for tires that significantly improves traction of winter tires in snowy conditions and naturally occurring bacteria-based food additives used in feed for animals on land and in the ocean. In shrimp farms for example, the bacteria removes animal waste toxins to improve water quality and shrimp health. And with worldwide demand for food sources expected to increase by at least 50 percent by 2050, Evonik R&D teams today are at work to design new options for sustainable nutrition across the food chain.

In the future, Evonik hopes to bring other new innovations out of the lab in the areas of 3D printing, new biosurfactant cleaners that are 100 percent renewable and biodegradable, and digital precision livestock farming technologies that use drones and AI to significantly reduce waste by targeting and reaching livestock on the roam. Based in Essen, Germany, Evonik employs more than 33,000 people in 100 countries, all specialists in their own fields.

Chemist Matias Gunther holds a bottle of lipids for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Evonik’s production facility, photo credit: Evonik

As of 3/31/21, Evonik was held in the Knowledge Leaders Strategy.

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