Moderna has never distributed a product before. A Swiss company is here to help

Lonza Group AG made its first commercial batch of the main ingredient in Moderna Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate in the U.S. last week and plans to start European production by the end of the month, Chairman Albert Baehny said.

The company is ramping up and fine-tuning its production lines, a process that may stretch into next year.

“We have access to the raw materials; we have access to the people,” Baehny said in an interview. The main challenge is “to optimize as much as possible.”

Subscribe to Bull Sheet for no-nonsense daily analysis on what’s happening in the markets, delivered free to your inbox.

Lonza’s effort is key to ensuring a smooth rollout of Moderna’s vaccine, should the shot prove to be safe as well as effective. In contrast to pharma giant Pfizer Inc., its closest U.S. rival in the race for a Covid shot, the biotech has no other marketed products and has never had to build out distribution channels for a medicine.

Most of the production of the drug substance for Moderna’s vaccine is running via Lonza, a Swiss company with a long history of partnering with big drugmakers. Lonza is building out capacity for 400 million doses a year — 300 million from three production lines in Visp, Switzerland, and 100 million in New Hampshire. Moderna itself has one production line with capacity for 100 million doses a year.

Moderna has said it will be able to deliver 20 million doses of vaccine by the end of this year, enough to inoculate 10 million people. The U.S. will get the first batch.

Moderna’s vaccine is a new type of medicine, like the one from Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech SE. Based on messenger RNA, it essentially transforms the cells of the body into tiny vaccine-making machines. That new technology means that Lonza had to create its production lines “from scratch,” Baehny said. The Swiss company has a 10-year exclusive collaboration deal to produce mRNA products for Moderna.

Baehny declined to comment on whether Moderna and Lonza are in talks about adding more production lines. Lonza would have space, mainly in Switzerland, to accommodate additional manufacturing, he said.

More health care and Big Pharma coverage from Fortune:

  • The biggest errors the Trump administration made in response to COVID
  • Hackers are trying to disrupt and steal COVID-19 vaccine research
  • Infectious disease experts are very excited about the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine
  • We don’t know enough about COVID antibodies to count on them
  • U.K. to use A.I. to spot dangerous side effects in the millions of COVID-19 vaccinations it will deliver

Latest articles

81 Absolute Best Black Friday Deals (2020): Amazon, Walmart, Target, Etc.

Allswell (made by Walmart) has nice mattresses for the price. The Luxe is similar to the Standard Hybrid (which is not currently on...

R.I.P. Black Friday? Pandemic, online shopping lead to thin crowds

Our mission to make business better is fueled by readers like you. To enjoy unlimited access to our journalism, subscribe today.The major retailers wanted...

First Country Holiday Edition: New Original Christmas Music From Dan + Shay, Carrie Underwood, Dolly Parton & More

Reigning CMA duo of the year Dan + Shay’s two originals this year serve as flip sides of the same coin: one spritely,...

Iranian state TV says scientist tied to nuclear program has been killed

An Iranian scientist that Israel alleged led the Islamic Republic's military nuclear program until its disbanding in the early 2000s was "assassinated" Friday,...

Related articles

Leave a reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here