The company also expects to increase 2021 supply to between 800 million and 1 billion doses.
Today’s announcement, alongside other news from fellow mRNA heavyweights Pfizer/BioNTech this month, illustrates how companies and governments are starting to plan for mass supplies of COVID-19 vaccines over the longer term.
Longer term plans start to come into focus
For Moderna, the manufacture of drug substance at Lonza’s Switzerland facility will be doubled. So will formulation, fill and finish and drug substance manufacturing at Rovi’s Spanish facility.
In the US, there will be a 50% increase of drug substance at Moderna’s own facilities. This is in addition to recently announced partnerships in formulation, fill and finish with Catalent and Sanofi.
The investments will begin this year, resulting in increased production in late 2021 and early 2022. Moderna says it is also in advanced negotiations for other agreements.
The company is ramping up investments because it identifies a ‘significant need’ for booster vaccinations in 2022 and beyond. Data from current studies predict that immunity will start to wane within 12 months, while the efficacy of the authorized vaccine against variants is reduced.
Moderna has also announced new data supporting 3 month refrigerated (2-8°C) stable formulation (up from 1 month currently).
It also expects that formulation work on its current mRNA-1273 vaccine and next-generation candidate mRNA-1283 will extend refrigerated shelf life further.
Moderna has also started working on variant specific vaccines: with one designed to tackle the South Africa variant already with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a Phase 1 clinical trial.
At the moment, Moderna’s supply plans are estimates as production capacity will depend on how boosters, variant-specific vaccines and pediatric vaccines evolve (theses could all potentially be administered at lower doses than the 100 μg dose for the authorized vaccine).
Fellow mRNA heavy-weights Pfizer/BioNTech are also ramping up capacity for the years ahead, although they have not yet set a figure on how many doses they are planning past 2021. Last month they edged up 2021 capacity estimates to 2.5 billion doses, but have highlighted the ability of the tech to allow for further increases.
Pfizer/BioNTech already have a 1.8 billion dose contract with the EU for 2021-2023 in the works: suggesting other large scale longer-term deals may follow.
Last week Israel – a leader in COVID-19 vaccination campaigns – confirmed it has set up orders with Pfizer and Moderna for 2022: although it did not reveal the number of doses or financial terms of either agreement.