- Moderna on Tuesday said it will work with the Canadian government to build an mRNA vaccine manufacturing plant there, a partnership that's designed to be a blueprint for how countries can prepare for future pandemics.
- Canada is already well supplied with coronavirus vaccines, having secured rights to enough doses to immunize its population three times over. But the new factory is aimed at providing Canada with its own domestic supply of shots for respiratory diseases, a number of which Moderna has in clinical development.
- Throughout the pandemic, CEO Stéphane Bancel has said he wants to collaborate with governments to build "never again" vaccine manufacturing plants around the world in order to stop pandemics like COVID-19. "We believe that this innovative business model will have global impact and implications," Bancel said in an August 10 statement announcing the partnership in Canada.
While mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 were developed, tested and authorized in record time, bottlenecks in the global supply chain and limited manufacturing capacity have slowed their rollout globally. Combined, Moderna and Pfizer expect to be able to supply 6 billion doses in 2022 — an unimaginable feat at the start of the pandemic, but still only enough to vaccinate 3 billion people, or less than half of the world's population.
To deliver as many doses as it has, Moderna, a small biotech before the demands of pandemic swelled its workforce, has needed to rely on Swiss manufacturer Lonza and other contractors for help in production.
Last year, Bancel began pushing a "never again" vision to combine preparatory preclinical research on pathogens most likely to spread rapidly in humans with the build-out of manufacturing capacity to stand ready to quickly supply vaccines. The new plant in Canada appears to be a step towards that goal, one which Moderna said it is trying to duplicate in other countries.
"While we are still responding to this pandemic, we also want to ensure we and society learn from it," Bancel said in the statement.
Moderna's and Pfizer's vaccines have showcased the capabilities of mRNA technology for vaccines, and both companies aim to replicate their success with shots for other infectious diseases.
Moderna's most advanced candidate is designed to prevent cytomegalovirus, a disease that doesn't affect healthy people but can cause complications in immunocompromised individuals. After that, the company has projects that aim to prevent Zika virus — a mosquito-borne illness most common in tropical and subtropical regions — as well as seasonal influenza and respiratory syncytial virus.
The last of those is one entrant in what's likely to be a competitive development race, with Pfizer looking to complete a Phase 3 trial of a protein-based vaccine in early 2022.