Takeda, Moderna partner up to bring 50M coronavirus shots to Japan

Japanese drugmaker Takeda has quickly emerged as one of the leading forces in the fight against COVID-19 as a vaccine manufacturing partner and R&D lead on a convalescent plasma-based therapy. Now, Takeda will help another biotech distribute its potential COVID-19 vaccine in the drugmaker's home country. 

Massachusetts biotech Moderna has tapped Takeda to bring 50 million doses of its mRNA-based COVID-19 shots to Japanese shores as part of a government-backed vaccine distribution effort, the partners said Thursday.

Takeda will import and distribute Moderna's shot, dubbed mRNA-1273, starting in the first half of next year, as well as handle local regulatory approvals, the drugmaker said. Moderna's vaccine is currently working through a pivotal, 30,000-patient phase 3 study, with early data expected sometime in late November or after.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. A Moderna spokeswoman could not be reached for comment by press time.

RELATED: Takeda teams up with Novavax to introduce its coronavirus vaccine in Japan

The newest partnership with Moderna adds to Takeda's growing role in the fight against COVID-19.

Back in August, the Japanese drugmaker reached a deal with Novavax to develop, manufacture and sell the U.S. biotech’s coronavirus vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373, in Japan. The shot is in phase 3 testing in the U.K. and on the cusp of beginning phase 3 in the U.S. and Mexico

While the exact monetary terms were not disclosed, the partners said Japan’s health authorities would help fund technology transfer, new infrastructure and scale-up of manufacturing. The goal is to build up capacity to produce 250 million doses of the shot a year.

RELATED: Takeda, CSL-led alliance starts scaling up production of COVID-19 plasma therapy as phase 3 kicks off: report

Earlier this month, a Takeda-headed research group launched commercial manufacturing of a hyperimmune immunoglobulin (H-Ig) drug for COVID-19 with phase 3 data expected by the end of the year, Takeda CEO Christophe Weber told Reuters.

The clinical batches were produced at Takeda’s U.S. facility in Georgia and CSL Behring's site in Bern, Switzerland. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the U.S. is running the trial.

To make the drug, convalescent plasma donations from multiple patients are combined, and antibodies are extracted, purified and concentrated. Theoretically, the final standardized product contains multiple types of antibodies that can go after SARS-CoV-2 from different directions. Compared with FDA-authorized convalescent plasma, which requires blood-type matching, H-Ig could be given to all eligible patients.