Lonza making 400m doses of COVID vaccine and can scale up further if Moderna asks

With four manufacturing lines prepped to produce 400 million doses, Lonza has congratulated Moderna on positive interim results for its mRNA vaccine against COVID-19.

Biopharma has appeared to gain the upper hand on its battle against COVID-19 in the past week. First Pfizer and BioNTech reported positive interim results – a 90% efficacy rate – in a Phase III study of its mRNA vaccine candidate, and days later Moderna topped this reporting that its mRNA vaccine was shown to be 94.5% effective in preliminary data from its large-scale Phase III trial.*

Such levels of effectiveness are promising, as seasonal influenza vaccines are often fall in the range of 40% to 60%, while regulators have said they would approve a COVID-19 vaccine with just a 50% effectiveness rate.

Image: iStock/Julio Ricco

“With positive interim results from both Moderna’s and Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine candidates, we are witnessing a major step forward in the evolution of vaccine technology, with the potential to change the way we manage infection and disease in the future,” said Pierre-Alain Ruffieux, CEO of Swiss contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) Lonza.

Back in May, Lonza was contracted to manufacture both clinical and commercial supply of the vaccine candidate mRNA-1273 and the firm has revealed it is to make hundreds of millions of doses for Moderna.

“The plan has always been 400 million,” a Lonza spokesperson told Bioprocess Insider, with four manufacturing lines producing 100 million each. The first line is already operational at Lonza’s site in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and three more lines will begin production at Lonza’s Visp, Switzerland site before the end of the year.

“We could potentially add more lines, but this would be up to Moderna,” the spokesperson added.

With Moderna aiming to produce more than 1 billion doses in 2021, Lonza is not the sole producer of mRNA-1273. Moderna has been using its own site in Norwood, Massachusetts – which opened in July 2018 – throughout the development stage and has also inked contracts with CDMOs Catalent and Laboratorios Farmacéuticos Rovi.

* Since this story was published, Pfizer and BioNTech have announced a final analysis of clinical-trial data showed its Covid-19 vaccine was 95% effective

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