Moderna, Swiss strike contract in Lonza for potential COVID-19 vaccine

(Reuters) – Moderna Inc and Swiss contract drug maker Lonza Group AG announced on Friday to accelerate the manufacture of the U.S. drug developer’s potential coronavirus vaccine.

The announcement comes at a time when drug companies are pausing clinical trials for other disease areas as they focus on testing possible treatments for the coronavirus.

The experimental mRNA-1273 vaccine is being tested at an early stage by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Moderna expects the second stage to begin in the second quarter.

Under the 10-year collaboration agreement, the companies plan to produce up to a billion doses a year, as technology transfer is expected to begin in June and the first batches of the vaccine are expected to be manufactured in Lonza, USA, in July.

“Over time, the parties intend to add additional production suites to Lonza’s global facilities to ultimately enable the production of material that is equivalent to up to 1 billion cans of mRNA-1273 a year for global use,” said the company.

The disease, which infected more than 3.2 million people worldwide and killed around 232,000 people, triggered a race for an antidote among pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Earlier this month, Moderna received $ 483 million in funding from a U.S. government agency to accelerate the development of COVID-19 vaccines.

Regardless, Lonza’s Basel-based pharmaceutical, biotech and nutrition business received more than 40 inquiries about projects related to COVID-19, the company said in early April.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru, edited by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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