Moderna teams with Sweden's Recipharm to rev up EU vaccine manufacturing

Moderna manufacturing site
Recipharm in November said it had reserved capacity for Moderna's shot and was seeking new talent to meet vaccine demand in 2021. (Moderna)

Armed with authorizations for its COVID-19 vaccine in Europe and the U.S., Moderna is advancing to the next phase of the pandemic fight. With two fill-finish pacts in its arsenal, the company clinched a third as it strives to produce 1 billion doses in 2021.

Moderna struck a deal with Swedish CDMO Recipharm in late December for formulation and fill-finish work on its mRNA vaccine. Recipharm will shore up a portion of Moderna’s ex-U.S. supply from its Monts, France, manufacturing facility, the partners said. The EU is lined up to receive 160 million doses of Moderna’s shot, with deliveries pegged to begin next week, thanks to the European Medicines Agency’s endorsement Tuesday.

Alongside Recipharm, Moderna has tapped Lonza and Spain's Laboratorios Farmacéuticos Rovi for extra manufacturing muscle abroad. Lonza signed on as Moderna’s first pandemic manufacturing partner in May, pledging suites at its facilities in the U.S. and Switzerland. The partners laid plans to build out additional manufacturing sites, with a view to potentially hit capacity of 1 billion doses per year.

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Moderna enlisted Rovi to perform fill-finish duties on “hundreds of millions” of vaccine doses at its Madrid facility. Catalent—tied up with a fleet of vaccine makers—is also chipping in, albeit stateside, where the CDMO is tackling fill-finish work for upward of 100 million Moderna doses at its Bloomington, Indiana, site. 

Recipharm and Moderna inked a letter of intent in November. At that point, Recipharm had already reserved capacity and started hunting for new staffers to get the jump on the massive demand ahead.

“Our preparations are already well underway with the hiring of new staff and investment in the facility to enable us to meet the challenging timelines,” Thomas Eldered, CEO of Recipharm, said in a release.

Recipharm late last year said it was plotting investments to swiftly kick off technology transfer and scale-up efforts.

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Meanwhile, Moderna’s already one step closer to its billion-dose goal. The company Tuesday raised its low-end global production estimate from 500 million doses to 600 million doses in 2021.

Moderna will need those extra shots, too. The U.S. recently tapped its option to buy another 100 million vaccines, contributing to a 200 million-dose total. Meanwhile, Canada and Europe both doubled their Moderna purchases in December.