Moderna’s chief executive said he “hasn’t lost a minute of sleep” following the U.S. government’s decision to support the patent suspension of the Covid-19 vaccine, a move that stunned the pharmaceutical industry.
The Biden administration said on Wednesday it would support the temporary the waiver of patents, a measure opposed by many industry players, who have said that the suspension of intellectual property rights for the blows dangerous precedent and risked stopping innovation in the sector.
But Stéphane Bancel, chief executive of Moderna, said he believed “that doesn’t change anything for Moderna,” during a call with analysts Thursday to discuss the company’s first quarter results.
He argued that there were not enough production sites or skilled workers to be able to rapidly increase the supply of mRNA vaccines such as Moderna, and that focus efforts on expanding manufacturing in companies that already had the technology and knowledge was the fastest and most efficient way. to provide the world with mRNA jabs.
“There is no inactive mRNA manufacturing capacity in the world. It’s new technology, you can’t hire people who know how to make mRNA – those people don’t exist, ”Bancel said.
He added that the patent waiver “will not help deliver more mRNA vaccines to the world faster in 2021 and 2022,” the most crucial period of the pandemic.
“If you were to start today, you’re going to have to start by hiring people. These vaccines do not come from the sky, ”Mr. Bancel said Thursday at the FT US Pharma and Biotech summit. “There is no mRNA industry. . . When we hire people from the traditional pharmaceutical industry, we need to train them in the art of mRNA.
Moderna and BioNTech / Pfizer jabs are made with MRNA, a genetic code sequence that instructs the body’s immune system to fight infection. The technology had never been used before in a vaccine. In contrast, the Johnson & Johnson and Oxford / AstraZeneca images use a adenovirus to deliver the vaccine into the body.
Morgan Stanley analysts said they “saw no significant practical implications” of the IP waiver because they believed the World Trade Organization lacked the power to force Moderna to teach other manufacturers how to make the vaccine, “suggesting not to change the status quo.”
Moderna shares fell 10 percent on Thursday, despite posting its first-ever quarterly profit, but rallied by noon to trade about 2 percent lower.
The company sold $ 1.7 billion worth of Covid vaccines in the first three months of the year, and said it will seek full approval from U.S. health agencies for its vaccine this month.
The drugmaker said total revenue reached $ 1.9 billion in the first quarter as it sold 102 million doses of its two-dose injection. It reported a net profit of $ 1.2 billion compared to a loss of $ 124 million in the same period a year ago.
Moderna also said the results of its Phase 2/3 vaccine trial in children aged 12 to 17 showed 96% efficacy. The trial involving 3,235 participants did not cause any serious side effects, he said.
The trial results came as countries sought to expand their immunization programs to younger age groups. The BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine was authorized use Wednesday on 12 to 15 year olds in Canada, the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine for children.
Moderna is likely to benefit from the need for boosters to tackle emerging variants of the coronavirus in the years to come and Bancel has underscored governments’ demand for boosters. The drugmaker has expanded its capacity to manufacture up to 3 billion doses of vaccine in 2022.
A new variant has already fueled a disastrous wave of the virus in India, which has recorded more than 20 million cases, pushing health systems to the brink of collapse.
The company said a single booster of 50 mg in people previously vaccinated was found to be effective against the original virus and variants first detected in South Africa and Brazil.
Bancel told the FT that governments that had purchased doses of adenovirus vaccines were looking to use mRNA vaccines for boosters because mRNA injections had been found to be more effective.
Moderna said it has so far signed vaccine contracts worth a total of $ 19.2 billion in expected revenue for 2021 and plans to deliver up to 250 million doses in the second quarter. .
Switzerland on Thursday became the latest country to order booster shots from Moderna, signing up for 7 million doses in 2022 and an option for 7 million additional doses to be delivered at least in the first quarter of 2023.