Moderna, together with Pfizer, is one of the great ‘beneficiaries’ of Covid. Its vaccine is being the most reliable on the market, along with that of the American multinational. To increase production, it has reached an agreement with the pharmaceutical company Lonza to promote the production of pharmacological substances, and thus of doses, at its facilities in the Netherlands. Dan Staner, vice president of Moderna in Europe, explains that thanks to this it will be possible to manufacture, on a global scale, about 3,000 million doses. Although this will not be until 2022.

However, in the interview he gave Invertia via videoconference, the Swiss manager indicates that Moderna, in addition to fulfilling its contracts with the European Union “100%”, is working on supplying “millions of additional doses” to eastern European countries. summer. A supply that could be key, given the supply problems of AstraZeneca and Janssen.

In addition, Staner advances that Moderna is negotiating a new contract with the European Commission in which, he hopes, to be able to offer a “better price” per dose to the EU.

One moment of the interview.

They have signed an agreement with Lonza to increase their production in Europe. How many doses can Moderna’s vaccine against Covid be manufactured from now on?

Last year, our CEO announced that in 2021 we would manufacture between 800 million and 1 billion doses. With the additional investments in Lonza, Rovi and Resipharm, we believe that we will be able to produce between 1 billion and 3 billion doses. This is a huge increase.

But starting in 2022. Are these investments going to have any impact in 2021?

No. For this year we had planned to produce about 500 million doses. With the additional investments we have made, the maximum we can manufacture will be between 800 million and 1 billion doses. We are aware of the need for vaccines against Covid-19 and that we must supply not only Europe, Japan and the United States, but also the rest of the world. Asia, Africa, Latin America … They will still be there. That is why Moderna has increased its production capacity and will be able to manufacture up to 3,000 million doses next year.

Is what is being produced in the old continent only for Europe or is it for more countries?

The 800 million to 1 billion doses are for everyone. By 2021, the contracts we have with the European Commission indicate that we have to deliver about 310 million.

We are 100% complying with the conditions of the European Commission contracts

Is Brussels negotiating with Moderna to extend this contract or try to speed up the delivery of vaccines in the coming months?

In fact, we trade weekly. We speak to the Commission every two or three days. I am happy to be able to say that Moderna is delivering and fulfilling 100% of the conditions of the contracts with the European Union. If possible, we will try to provide more. We are working on delivering more doses to the European Commission so that member countries have more.

In addition, we are negotiating with the European Commission a contract for 2022, so that we can plan and scale our capacities for European countries next year.

In short, can we expect more doses of Moderna apart from the 310 million contracted?

That figure is what we have contracted with the European Commission. But we will know better what we can do in a few months. We are working on being able to deliver in July, August and September some million additional doses to help European countries in their vaccination campaigns.

So … You are working on accelerating and giving more doses to the European countries. Is that so?

Yes, in the coming weeks we will be able to tell more. I still cannot give figures on this because I do not have them. But we are working very hard on it.

The truth is that in Europe there are certain fears that supply failures of the Covid vaccine could be repeated, after what happened with AstraZeneca and the problems that Janssen is registering. Do you feel pressure from European countries on these issues?

We are in this pandemic together. Moderna mRNA vaccines are a very important need. Pfizer has been the world’s largest pharmaceutical company for the past 10 years. Modern 10 years ago did not exist. I am proud to say that we have produced 200 million doses in the United States in the last five months. Europe follows this path very closely. We hope to increase and reach similar figures in a short time. We are working very hard to be able to deliver more doses in the next four months to the European Commission.

Every time a company has a problem, governments put pressure on the rest of the laboratories

In this war against the pandemic, we cannot win without innovation and without vaccines. Obviously, at the beginning there were many more of us who worked to bring vaccines against Covid: AstraZeneca, Janssen, Sanofi … Many people. Unfortunately many did not make it to the final round and vaccination is falling on the shoulders of Pfizer / Biontech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen. Obviously, whenever there is some negative news, it affects us. Because it puts more pressure to deliver vaccines faster, better, and more.

And every time a company has a problem, governments put pressure on the rest of the laboratories. If something happens to AstraZeneca, if something happens to Janssen, it will put more pressure on Pfizer / Biontech and Moderna.

Is Moderna considering new agreements to expand its production in the coming weeks or months?

We are always going to explore potential alliances. That is the advantage of a biotech like ours. We are open to the world. But I can tell you that the backbone of our production strategy is in Rovi, Lonza and Resipharm, particularly in Rovi and Lonza.

What is Rovi’s role within Moderna’s global strategy? Has there been a win-win situation?

Well, I can’t speak for Rovi. We are fully committed and happy for the collaboration. In fact, Rovi and Lonza are key pillars. This trip would not have been possible without the alliance of Rovi, Lonza and Moderna. They are critical agents for us.

Dan Staner, vice president of Moderna (Photo: cedida / Alessandro della Valle).

Dan Staner, vice president of Moderna (Photo: cedida / Alessandro della Valle).

How was the agreement with Rovi created?

I cannot comment much because I was not yet in Moderna, so I am not aware of these negotiations. But I assume that the Spanish Government was involved. Plus, Rovi has the track record, the capabilities, the know-how… Both Lonza and Rovi, one in active substance production and the other in vial filling and finishing, are best in class. And that’s why we work with them.

There are many discussions about the future of Covid-19 vaccine patents. Specifically, within the World Trade Organization his release is being debated.

Moderna’s patent is now available. We made it public in the United States months ago. The question is another. We have the know-how, which is our technology. It is our intellectual property.

This is problem number one. You see: even working with companies like Rovi or Lonza, building a new factory would take us a year and a half. If it takes us 18 months, it will take anyone longer. These new doses will not be available for at least 18 to 24 months. That is, they will never be available in 2022.

On the other hand, Moderna plans to manufacture up to 3 billion doses in 2022. Pfizer and Biontech have announced that next year they will produce 4 billion doses. Therefore, between the two of us, we will be able to produce 7,000 million doses. This is enough to vaccinate the entire planet.

The third pillar is the following. A vaccine needs 600 components. In the case of mRNA vaccines, we’re ‘Ok’ right now, because it’s just us and Pfizer. Imagine the scenario if there were three, four, five or more manufacturers. We would all go to the same component producers because there are only a few. What would happen? That no one would have all the necessary components and manufacturing would have to be stopped.

Is Moderna not having trouble getting hold of these components right now?

No, but there are no large remnants either. There is stock but also a great demand that does not allow us to have large reserves.

Could this increase in demand for components increase the price of vaccines?

No. We will try to keep the price under control. We are working hard on a new price proposal to the European Commission for 2022 and we are making an effort to prevent the cost from going up.

We are making every effort to keep the price of our vaccine stable or even improve it.

So is the price going to hold or go up?

I cannot give you all the details because we are negotiating. But I can tell you that we are making every effort to keep the price stable or even improve it.

Improve it for Moderna or for the European Commission?

(laughs) For you. For the European Commission.

Covid has become big business for Moderna. But what is the future of the company in the short and long term?

Many people believe that Moderna is Covid-19. In fact, Covid-19 has accelerated the proof of concept of the new mRNA technology, and has proven that it works. Moderna is not a company for Covid-19. The coronavirus only the area in which we have launched our first product.

We have a ‘pipeline’ of 23 products. In phases I, II and III. We are talking about products against respiratory syncytial virus, vaccines against cytomegalovirus, which is the main cause of malformations in children. We have started studies of a vaccine against HIV and also against seasonal flu.

The current flu vaccine is between 25% and 50% effective. We want to change that, increasing it significantly. We are also working on a vaccine that acts in a combined way against the flu and against Covid. Imagine: with one dose a year, people would be protected against both diseases.

We also have six products in development in oncology. Vaccines against tumors, against cancer. Also in cardiovascular or rare diseases.

But in recent years, vaccines have been devalued, due to the gradual reduction in the prices that countries are willing to pay. In fact, that is why several producers had stopped making them in recent years.

Covid-19 has changed the situation. People have realized that tomorrow’s enemy no longer comes in planes or tanks. It can be a virus or a bacteria. We believe that our technology, mRNA, with ten vaccines in development and other biologics, could be totally revolutionary.

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