Moderna could start manufacturing unproven coronavirus vaccine in July, CEO says

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Moderna hopes to start manufacturing its unapproved coronavirus vaccine “as early as July,” CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC on Friday.

The biotech company announced earlier today a 10-year partnership with Swiss drug maker Lonza to accelerate manufacturing of the experimental vaccine.

“We hope with Lonza to start manufacturing products for the corona vaccine as early as July,” Bancel said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box”. “Our team is ready to start dosing as soon as we have the green light. “

The company is moving forward with the production of the potential vaccine, called mRNA-1273, in the hopes that it will be safe for humans and effective against the coronavirus. However, the candidate vaccine remains in phase 1.

The potential vaccine, which was developed by researchers at Moderna and the National Institutes of Health, became the first candidate to enter a human phase 1 trial in March and the full results have not been published. Bancel added that the data from the phase 1 trial “looks positive” regarding safety.

Earlier this week, Moderna announced that it had submitted a request to the Food and Drug Administration to move the candidate to phase 2 of the trial. The company says a phase 3 trial could start as early as fall 2020.

The NIH said their researchers were able to quickly produce a candidate with Moderna because the two organizations were already in partnership, looking for “related coronaviruses”.

Moderna, along with other companies in the running to develop a coronavirus vaccine, is speeding up manufacturing before approval so they can quickly distribute doses if their candidate proves effective against the virus. Bancel said his team alone could produce around 100 million doses a year, but with Lonza’s partnership, they hope to produce around 1 billion doses a year.

“If you can only make a few million vials, it’s not going to really help the global public health problem we have,” he said. “Our goal is to make the vaccine available worldwide. “

Last month, Moderna announced that it had received a $ 483 million contract from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to accelerate the development of its candidate vaccine. Moderna shares rose more than 15% on the news.

The vaccine uses synthetic messenger RNA to inoculate against the virus. These treatments help the body to immunize against a virus and can potentially be developed and produced faster than traditional vaccines.

The race to develop a vaccine is extremely competitive and investors are watching closely for signs of progress on treatments and vaccines. Bancel said it would take more than one company to repel the coronavirus, which has infected more than 3.2 million people worldwide and killed at least 230,000 people.

“No business can help the whole planet,” he said.

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