Moderna will provide access to mRNA tech, but high-income countries will have to pay

Moderna will provide access to the technology to produce its mRNA COVID-19 vaccine to countries that are most in need. High-income countries that want to do the same will have to pay a price.

That was the message Moderna sent on Monday in revealing its “global public health strategy,” a wide-ranging statement on how it intends to do business in the future.

Moderna said it will accommodate 92 low- and middle-income countries where people are the most vulnerable to the virus. The worldwide relief effort COVAX supplies shots to these countries, including many at a low cost from Moderna. The company says that it will not use its patents to block manufacturing of mRNA vaccines as long as the shots are used strictly within the countries.

As for high-income countries, Moderna is willing to license the technology on “commercially reasonable terms,” it said, suggesting it expects royalties.

“If people have used or are using our technology to make a vaccine, I don’t understand why, once we are in an endemic setting when there’s plenty of vaccine and there’s no issue to supply vaccines, why we should not get rewarded for the things we invented,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel told the Wall Street Journal.

Moderna, meanwhile, has its own patent concerns. Last week, Arbutus Biopharma and Genevant Sciences filed a lawsuit claiming that Moderna infringed on six of their patents that cover to the delivery of Spikevax.

The patents relate to the nucleic and acid-lipid particles and lipid vesicles that allow for the delivery of the mRNA.

It’s not the goal of Arbutus or Genevant to block Moderna’s production of the vaccine. They just want a piece of the rich Spikevax pie. Last year, Moderna raked in $17.7 billion for sales of the vaccine. The company projects $22 billion in sales of the shot in 2022.  

Additionally, Moderna on Monday said it will invest $500 million to build an mRNA manufacturing facility in Kenya that would be capable of end-to-end production of 500 million vaccines doses annually.

Aside from the patent strategy, Moderna also disclosed its plan to expand its portfolio to 15 vaccine programs with the goal of advancing them into clinical studies by 2025 and expanding access to its mRNA technology to global partners.