- French drugmaker Sanofi will help Moderna fill and finish vials of its coronavirus vaccine, announcing Monday an agreement with the Massachusetts biotech to manufacture up to 200 million doses of the shot at a plant in New Jersey.
- Fill and finish describes the final steps of the production process, in which the vaccine product is siphoned into individual vials, capped and labeled for distribution. The deal with Sanofi should help Moderna expand capacity through the later stages of manufacturing, but the larger drugmaker won't help with earlier steps of making raw materials or vaccine product.
- Moderna has contracted with the U.S. government to supply 300 million doses by the end of July, 117 million of which had been delivered through April 12. The company operates a separate supply chain for manufacturing abroad and expects to make between 700 million and 1 billion doses globally this year.
One of the largest vaccine companies, Sanofi is in the unusual position of helping other developers make their coronavirus shots rather than leading with the development of its own.
One effort, with GlaoxSmithKline, hit a unexpected setback last December that pushed back the companies' testing timeline by six to nine months. A mid-stage study of a new formulation the companies say is more potent began in February and could return data by June. If all goes to plan, their shot could be available by the fourth quarter, although that timeline may be optimistic.
Sanofi also last month began human testing of a messenger RNA vaccine developed with Translate Bio. Testing of that vaccine, too, had been delayed from previous expectations
In the meantime, the French pharmaceutical has agreed to lend some of its manufacturing capacity to help other companies with already authorized vaccines.
Three months ago, Sanofi struck a deal with Pfizer and BioNTech to fill and finish up to 125 million doses of their vaccine using a plant in Frankfurt, Germany. A few weeks later, the company agreed to support production of Johnson & Johnson's shot in Europe through a factory in France.
The deal with Moderna is Sanofi's third, and makes the company the only one aiding the manufacture of three separate coronavirus vaccines.
Work at the New Jersey plant will begin in September, the companies said in a statement that acknowledged the Biden White House as a facilitator in reaching a deal. Earlier this year, the administration brokered a manufacturing pact between Merck & Co. and J&J.
Vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and J&J are cleared for use in the U.S. But the vast majority of shots supplied have been either Pfizer's and Moderna's amid production issues and safety concerns with J&J's.
Through April 25, some 273 million doses of Pfizer's and Moderna's vaccines, which are given via two shots, had been delivered, compared to 17.6 million of J&J's.
On Friday, advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended J&J vaccinations should resume after a brief pause was triggered by a handful of cases of a rare blood clotting syndrome. The CDC and Food and Drug Administration lifted the pause soon thereafter.
The syndrome hasn't been associated with either Pfizer's or Moderna's vaccines.
While Sanofi is behind in developing its own coronavirus vaccine, the French drugmaker did get good news on another front Monday, reporting the earlier-than-expected trial success of an antibody drug for respiratory syncytial virus disease in infants.