Moderna turns to biotech startup to ramp up Covid vaccine manufacturing

Moderna will turn to a biotech startup, National Resilience, to manufacture additional doses of its Covid-19 vaccine.

Moderna had previously said it would manufacture 800 million to 1 billion doses of its Covid-19 vaccine in 2021, ramping up to 3 billion doses in 2022.  A person familiar with the company said the collaboration might result in hundreds of millions more doses. Currently, the vaccine is given as a two-dose series, though Moderna has said at least some patients may need a third dose given many months later.

National Resilience will manufacture mRNA to produce the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at its facility in Mississauga, Ontario, for worldwide distribution. The company is headquartered in San Diego and Cambridge, Mass.

“This collaboration has the potential to ensure more people are protected around the world from the deadly Covid-19 virus,” said Rahul Singhvi, CEO of Resilience, as it is usually called.

Resilience raised $800 million from private investors last November. It was the brainchild of ARCH Venture Partners co-founder Robert Nelsen, who said that he hatched the company from his anger over the pandemic. The technology behind new biotechnology treatments, including mRNA and gene therapy, can be difficult to manufacture, and it appeared to him that even if vaccines and treatments for Covid-19 were developed there would not be enough manufacturing capacity. The company’s board of directors includes former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, former Senator Bob Kerrey, former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, through his position as a venture capitalist at New Enterprise Associates, and Nobel laureate Francis Arnold.

Speaking at the STAT Breakthrough Science Summit this summer, Nelsen said that he put the company together entirely with his cell phone, eschewing a computer, and mostly, he said, in his bathrobe.

Even as Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech have ramped up production on their vaccines, demand for the shots far exceeds supply, with many countries in the developing world unable to get new vaccines. This has put pressure on the companies to further increase production.

In an interview with STAT, Singhvi said that the deal came together over a period of months, thanks in part to his prior relationship with Moderna’s head of manufacturing. He emphasized that, in the long-term, Resilience wants to not merely be a contract manufacturer but to improve the science of manufacturing.

“This gives us more conviction that the world needs high quality manufacturing,” Singhvi said. “The world needs better infrastructure and supply chain resiliency so it can respond to these types of challenges in the future.”

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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