Experts fighting COVID-19 say governments and industry must invest in vaccine plants that can be brought online during future pandemics.
The call came during the online conference BIO-Europe Spring plenary session.
Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel – whose RNA vaccine entered Phase I trials weeks after the SAR-COv2 sequence was published – told delegates rapid scale-up is vital during a pandemic.
“The piece we are missing is infrastructure – Moderna is using a development plant to make vaccine for trials and we are scaling up capacity.
“The help of government and coalitions like CEPI [Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations] is needed to make vaccine production faster.”
Bancel pointed out that government investment in redundant capacity is not unprecedented.
“Governments spent billions on nuclear weapons with hope of never using them. It is not crazy to invest a few million dollars in vaccine manufacturing facilities that can be brought online in the event of another pandemic.”
Economies and scale
The view was echoed by Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, which has provided financial support to Moderna and others developing vaccines.
“We were worried about capacity for the manufacture of vaccines even before COVID-19. We must invest in global vaccine manufacturing and the ability to respond quickly.”
Hatchett said COVID-19 will change the world, including how governments think about epidemics and the harm they can do to people and the global economy.
He predicted financing for ready-to-use vaccine manufacturing capacity will be part of post COVID-19 discussion.
“We have to get to a world that has capacity for vaccines and therapeutics.
“CEPI is working with organizations like the World Bank, the G7 and the G20 to think about what financial instruments we can use to allow firms to make investments in manufacturing capacity” he said, adding “there is political will now to encourage investments in scaling.”
Hatchett said, “What do we want a post-COVID-19 world to look like? We need to design towards rapidly deployable sustainable capability.”