USA — Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel stated this week at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting that the company intends to build on its exponential growth during the pandemic by expanding its operations globally over the next few years, Pharmaceutical Technology reports.
Moderna lost US$747 million in 2020 while its investigational mRNA vaccines were in development.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the US-based biotech rose to prominence as one of the first to develop Covid-19 vaccines using its mRNA technology.
Moderna’s net income in 2021 was US$12.2 billion. Moderna made US$18.4 billion in Covid-19 vaccine sales in 2022, according to reports.
In a January business update, the company predicted that new vaccine sales would total at least US$5 billion.
Moderna’s Covod-19 vaccine, Spikevax is an mRNA vaccine that can be modified to combat new SARS-CoV-2 strains.
This is especially important because the new variant XBB.1.5 has caused an increase in cases in several regions in the new year.
As of last week, this variant accounted for 43% of all reported Covid-19 cases in the United States.
However, Moderna is confident in its vaccine’s adaptability to different variants as. In a panel discussion on the “State of the Pandemic”, Bancel said.
“We’ve shown this summer that we are able to adapt to different variants very quickly”.
The CEO illustrated his point, by discussing that in June, the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER), at the FDA, requested new vaccines for the BA.5 Omicron variant. Following this request, the company was able to get these vaccines into pharmacies within 60 days.
Even though new variants continue to emerge, in September, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the end of the Covid-19 pandemic is “in sight.”
This comment, among others, indicated that companies like Moderna, which has primarily focused on Covid-19 therapeutics, would need to find new ways to maintain a long-term presence in the pharmaceutical industry.
Moderna has recently begun to broaden its scope through global partnerships and transactions. On January 4, the company announced plans to pay US$85 million for Japanese biotech OriCiro Genomics.
Bancel explained that this deal will “shrink the time to get from designing the sequence to having products ready by two more weeks.” Moderna anticipates that this technology will be ready for use by the autumn of 2024.
Increasing manufacturing capacity for pandemic prevention
In December, Moderna announced a 10-year partnership with the UK government to invest in mRNA R&D in the UK and build an Innovation and Technology Centre capable of producing up to 250 million vaccines per year. Construction will begin in early 2023, with the goal of producing the first mRNA vaccine there in 2025.
This will allow UK citizens to obtain a locally manufactured supply of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines as well as any mRNA vaccines approved later.
According to the partnership announcement, it will create 150 jobs and “future proof” the UK against future outbreaks.
Furthermore, the UK Health Security Agency plans to work with Moderna for quick vaccine development, supporting the G7 mission to “get from variant to vaccine in 100 days.”
The biotech also intends to expand its manufacturing capacity elsewhere. In the fall, the company purchased land in Canada to construct a manufacturing facility as part of a similar 10-year partnership with the Canadian government to strengthen the company’s pandemic response.
Moderna has also begun construction of similar facilities in Australia as part of a separate 10-year partnership, and will soon begin construction in Kenya.
The Australian facility, which will be built in Melbourne, will have the capacity to produce up to 100 million mRNA vaccine doses per year, including those for respiratory infections.
The new Kenyan facility will be able to produce 500 million vaccine doses per year. Similar agreements are also being planned for the United States and Switzerland.