(Reuters) – Moderna Inc has extended a deal to secure large volumes of the lipids used to produce its experimental COVID-19 vaccine as the U.S. biotech looks to build capacity and produce enough doses to meet expected global demand.
The company on Thursday signed an agreement with Swiss firm CordenPharma for the supply of large-scale volumes of lipid excipients used to produce its vaccine candidate.
There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, and experts predict a safe and effective vaccine could take 12 to 18 months from the start of development.
Vaccines are seen by world leaders as the only real way to restart their economies after months of lockdowns. However, there is a growing concern that some nations, including the United States, could seek to hoard a successful candidate as initial manufacturing capacity is unlikely to be sufficient to meet global demand.
Moderna said last week that its vaccine candidate, the first to be tested in the United States, produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers, offering a glimmer of hope for a vaccine among the most advanced in development.
“This expansion will increase supply of lipid excipients used to manufacture our mRNA products,” Moderna’s chief technical operations and quality officer, Juan Andres, said.
Moderna plans to supply millions of doses per month in 2020 and tens of millions a month in 2021 if the vaccine proves successful.
The company has signed a 10-year deal with Swiss contract drug manufacturer Lonza to help speed up manufacturing the vaccine with the aim to reach up to a billion doses annually.
Moderna’s shares were up 2% before the bell on Thursday.
(Reporting by Shubham Kalia and Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by David Clarke and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)