Moderna, the Cambridge drug company whose experimental vaccine for the novel coronavirus was first in the United States to make it to clinical trials, has partnered with Swiss drug maker Lonza to manufacture up to 1 billion doses a year of the potential vaccine ― should it be approved by regulators ― the companies announced Friday.
The 10-year collaboration should greatly expand production capacity down the road but does not necessarily mean a vaccine will be available anytime soon. Public health specialists have consistently said it will probably take at least a year before a vaccine is tested, approved, and ready to be administered.
Under the agreement, Lonza will establish sites at its facilities in the United States and Switzerland to manufacture Moderna’s experimental vaccine, and eventually for other Moderna medications, the companies said in a statement. Lonza, which has facilities in 35 countries, is expected to produce the first doses in the United States in July before expanding to other sites.
“This long-term strategic collaboration agreement will enable Moderna to accelerate, by 10 times, our manufacturing capacity for [the potential vaccine] and additional products in Moderna’s large clinical portfolio,” said Moderna’s chief executive, Stephane Bancel, in the statement. “Lonza’s global presence and expertise are critical as we scale at unprecedented speed.”
Albert M. Baehny, Lonza’s chairman and interim chief executive, said in the statement, “Moderna’s technology represents a significant opportunity to change the way we protect people against disease.”
Part of the cost of setting up production facilities will be covered by funds from Moderna’s contract with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
The contract, which pledges up to $483 million for accelerating the development of the experimental vaccine, was announced April 16, the same day the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases began its study of the potential vaccine, which the institute helped develop.