Moderna scaling up ex-US COVID-19 vaccine capacity as EU deal nears

By Nick Taylor

- Last updated on GMT

© richterfoto / Getty Images
© richterfoto / Getty Images

Related tags: COVID-19 vaccine

The European Commission concludes exploratory discussions with Moderna about deal for up to 160 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

Going into August, Moderna was yet to publicly strike the sort of large-volume vaccine supply deals that other runners in the COVID-19 jab race began disclosing earlier in the summer. The lack of deal activity took place against a backdrop of discussions about Moderna’s plan to sell its mRNA vaccine for a profit, despite other organizations providing their prophylactics at cost during the pandemic.

Moderna landed its first deal earlier this month, securing a contract with the US government that could be worth more than $8 billion but carries a significantly lower cost per dose than it extracted from smaller customers.

Now, Moderna has taken a big step toward securing a deal with the European Union. Moderna is the latest company to disclose the conclusion of exploratory talks with the European Commission about the supply of COVID-19 vaccines.

In the first phase of the planned deal, the Commission will buy 80 million doses of the experimental COVID-19 vaccine mRNA-1273. The second phase of the deal gives EU member states the option to buy up to 80 million more doses.

The US and EU deals could swallow up a significant percentage of Moderna’s supplies of mRNA-1273. The US is set to buy 100 million doses and has an option to buy up to 400 million more shots. With the EU deal covering up to 160 million doses, the maximum volume across the two agreements is 660 million shots, although the minimum is only 180 million.

Moderna is currently scaling up its manufacturing operation, which has never previously supported a commercial product, with a view to supplying upward of 500 million doses a year starting in 2021. The mRNA specialist has aspirations to increase annual output to 1 billion doses.

To hit those targets, Moderna has entered into contracts with Lonza and ROVI to access production and fill-finish capacity outside of the US. The ROVI deal, which Moderna disclosed last month, could support fill-finish activities for hundreds of millions of doses of mRNA-1273 on a new production line that the Spanish service provider is setting up and staffing to service the COVID-19 vaccine contract.

If mRNA-1273 is shown to be safe and effective, it could be one of the first COVID-19 vaccines to be made available in the EU. Moderna plans to complete enrollment in its phase 3 trial next month, making it one of the frontrunners in the COVID-19 vaccine race.

The Commission already has a deal to source vaccines from another frontrunner, AstraZeneca, but the rest of its publicly disclosed talks have been with companies that are slightly further from the market.

Related topics: Markets & Regulations

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