Moderna to pour $500M into Africa to meet future mRNA vaccine manufacturing demand

Moderna manufacturing site
Although its planned plant will not have much impact on the COVID-19 pandemic, Moderna has about 20 vaccine candidates across its preclinical and clinical pipelines for respiratory viruses, latent viruses and threats to global health such as the Zika virus. (Moderna)

Moderna is eyeing sites in Africa where it plans to build a $500 million mRNA manufacturing facility that will be able to produce hundreds of millions of vaccine doses a year in anticipation of future vaccine demand in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The facility is expected to be able to manufacture up to 500 million doses of injectables at the 50-µg dose level and is expected to include drug substance manufacturing and the flexibility to add fill-finish and packaging capabilities. The site selection process is to start soon, the company said.

It’s unlikely the planned Africa plant will have much of an impact on the ongoing pandemic as completion of the project will take between two to four years, Stéphane Bancel, chief executive of Moderna, told The Wall Street Journal.

“While we are still working to increase capacity in our current network to deliver vaccines for the ongoing pandemic in 2022, we believe it is important to invest in the future,” Bancel said in a statement. “We expect to manufacture our COVID-19 vaccine as well as additional products within our mRNA vaccine portfolio at this facility.”

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Moderna, which currently manufactures its COVID-19 vaccine at its Norwood, Massachusetts, facility—in conjunction with CDMO production in New Hampshire and Switzerland—has vowed to roll out 1 billion doses of the treatment this year and possibly 3 billion in 2022.

The drugmaker, which was founded just a decade ago, boasts 20 vaccine candidates across its preclinical and clinical pipelines focused on respiratory viruses, latent viruses and threats to global health such as the Zika virus.

Wall Street analysts forecast the company is set to make more than $19 billion on COVID-19 vaccine sales this year alone while projecting sales of $15 billion in 2022, yet there remains some caution as the pandemic eases in more developed countries of the globe such as the U.S., Europe and Japan where Moderna has logged most of its sales. Still, the need for treatments in developing countries and the prospect of future viral outbreaks and other diseases are driving manufacturers to expand their footprints.