Coronavirus vaccine race: US developer Moderna signs major deal with Swiss giant Lonza

(Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)
(Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)

Moderna Inc., one of the leaders among US companies developing experimental vaccines against the coronavirus, entered a pact with Lonza Group AG aimed at manufacturing 1 billion doses a year.

The companies announced a global agreement under which the Swiss chemical and pharmaceutical company will ramp up output of the proposed vaccine, which is based on a novel technology that relies on genetic material called mRNA. The first batches will be produced in the US in July, they said.

The agreement is one of several partnerships being struck between drugmakers as they rush to bring protection against Covid-19 to the market. On Thursday, AstraZeneca Plc announced an agreement to make an experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford, eyeing production capacity for 100 million doses by the end of the year.

With dozens of projects under way around the world, the Trump administration wants to make shots available for Americans by the end of 2020. Scientists have said it could take longer to have a viable vaccine in place.

Moderna’s experimental shot induces the body’s own cells to make virus-like proteins that stimulate an immune response and prepare for an actual infection. It was one of the first proposed coronavirus vaccines to enter human trials. The company said it plans to begin the next phase of studies this quarter.

The pact with Lonza will enable a tenfold increase in manufacturing, which Moderna has already begun, according to a statement.

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