BOXBOROUGH, MA—German contract manufacturer Vibalogics GmbH is investing $150 million and hiring 100 people for a facility here as it helps Big Pharma develop a COVID-19 vaccine. The company plans to open the site by the second half of 2021. It is starting with 100 employees and hopes to reach 250 employees in the next four years.

The 118,000-square-foot facility was previously the East Coast R&D headquarters for Cisco Systems, which invested $28 million to upgrade the property's infrastructure, according to building owner Lincoln Property Co. Vibalogics selected Boxborough after an East Coast search led by Colliers International's Curtis Cole.

Vibalogics' specialty is viruses, including the viral vectors used by gene therapy companies to deliver their treatments deep into the human body. Gene therapies are one of the fastest growing fields in the life sciences, and the market for manufacturing the microscopic vectors alone is expected to reach $1.3 billion by 2027.

Recently, Vibalogics landed a contract with Johnson & Johnson to help produce the drug giant’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Johnson & Johnson hopes to produce 1 billion doses of the vaccine annually, including 100 million doses ordered by the U.S. government in August.

According to a Vibalogics spokesperson, "one of our main reasons for investing in the facility is to provide our customers the option for large scale and later stage manufacturing in the future." Early tests of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine have yielded promising results, but the Phase 3 trial of the drug was shut down in October due to safety concerns. The drugmaker has since resumed testing.