Moderna CEO touts plan for triple combo respiratory shot in 'three to five years': report

During the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Moderna worked its way into the public consciousness by speeding an effective vaccine through the FDA authorization process. But as demand slows for the first generation of coronavirus vaccines, Moderna is laying plans to build out its portfolio in the years to come.

Alongside its planned omicron-targeting shots for this fall, Moderna expects a combination COVID, flu and respiratory syncytial virus shot will be developed over "three to five years," CEO Stéphane Bancel told CNN Business.

Bancel compared the continual improvement of the company's COVID-19 vaccine franchise to that of Apple's hugely successful iPhone. "You don't get the amazing camera, amazing everything the first time you get an iPhone, but you get a lot of things." Then, over time, the product improves, he added.

Meanwhile, Moderna is testing a suite of COVID-19 shots tailored to individual virus variants. The company's pipeline shows seven tweaked versions of the original vaccine, plus the "next-generation" mRNA-1283 with a longer expected refrigerated shelf life.

And Moderna doesn't plan to be solely a COVID-19 vaccine maker. The company's pipeline shows dozens of candidates against numerous infectious diseases, cancer and more.

Over the last two-plus years, Moderna has kept busy—and grown significantly—as the pandemic vaulted it into biopharma's top 20 companies by revenue.

But even after Moderna recently revealed expansions in four Asian markets and six European countries, the company isn't done growing its geographic reach, Bancel told CNN. The company aims to operate in "40 to 60 countries" in the next three years.

Amid the expansion push, recent months have provided new challenges for the company. Moderna posted a 2,200% revenue jump in 2021, but vaccine demand has been slipping lately. In fact, the company recorded a $499 million write-off for unused inventory in the second quarter of 2022. 

"We ended up destroying the vaccines," Bancel told CNN, adding that it was "heartbreaking."

Moderna and other vaccine makers say the demand decline is temporary. Late last month, the company inked its latest supply deal with the U.S. government. The deal covers 66 million doses of a bivalent booster for a total cost of $1.74 billion. The deal includes an option for another 234 million doses.

In addition, the company and European officials inked an updated supply agreement earlier this week. In that deal, the European Commission purchased an additional 15 million doses of the company's vaccine.