With two leading mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines racing toward approvals, nations are looking to secure enough doses to get the winning shot—or shots—into patients' arms as soon as possible. To that end, the EU has finally minted a deal with Moderna for an initial supply.
Moderna and the EU finalized a deal Tuesday to supply 160 million doses of the Boston biotech's mRNA-based COVID-19 shot, bringing the bloc's overall supply to more than 2 billion doses, Reuters reported. That order would inoculate 80 million patients based on Moderna's two-dose regimen.
The newest supply pact comes nearly a week after the EU accepted Moderna's shot, dubbed mRNA-1273, for rolling review based on interim results from a phase 3 study showing 95% efficacy. Moderna also plans to submit the vaccine for the FDA's emergency use authorization within a few weeks, the biotech said earlier this month.
Pricing for the reported doses has yet to be announced, but an EU official previously told Reuters the bloc is hoping to lock in the shot at $25 per dose. On Sunday, CEO Stéphane Bancel told a German weekly the biotech was seeking to charge governments between $27 and $35 per dose, Reuters said.
With early rave reviews of its vaccine in hand, Moderna is also bringing on a new contract manufacturer to chip in on finishing work on the shot.
Tuesday, Moderna signed on Sweden's Recipharm to handle fill-finish duties for mRNA-1273 at its manufacturing plant in Monts, France. Recipharm will hire more staffers to meet the added workload and is making "certain investments" to aid technology transfer and manufacturing scale-up, the company said in a release.
Moderna joins the Pfizer-BioNTech team as the only two mRNA players in the COVID-19 race to have read out early efficacy results, and the biotech is touting its favorable storage conditions as a major leg up over its rival.
Last week, Moderna claimed mRNA-1273 could be stored at normal refrigerated temperatures of 36 degrees to 46 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 30 days, up from a prior estimate of just a week. It's also stable for 12 hours at room temp.
For longer-term storage and shipping, the vaccine needs to be kept at freezer temperatures of minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit, a temp that distributors are familiar with, Bancel said on CNBC. Bancel also stressed that Moderna’s vaccine won’t require dilution before it's administered to patients. That's a “big differentiator of our product," he said on CNBC.
Pfizer's shot, meanwhile, requires colder storage at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit and will only last for 24 hours at refrigerated temperatures. But the company has an aggressive plan to tap experienced shipping partners to transport doses in newly designed, GPS-enabled storage containers. Pfizer is also set to start working on a freeze-dried formulation for the vaccine that could ease logistical concerns.
A third player in the mRNA race, Germany's CureVac, claims its vaccine can be held stable for up to three months at refrigerator temperatures and up to 24 hours at room temperature. That vaccine entered phase 2a testing in September and is months behind its counterparts in the clinic.