Moderna extends lipids deal to boost COVID-19 vaccine output

A sign marks the headquarters of Moderna Therapeutics, which is developing a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, May 18, 2020. REUTERS
Moderna Inc has extended a deal to secure large volumes of the lipids used to produce its experimental COVID-19 vaccine in a bid to meet increasing demand for the medicine, the US biotech company said on Thursday.

Moderna said last week that the vaccine candidate, the first to be tested in the United States, produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers, offering a glimmer of hope for a vaccine among the most advanced in development.

The expanded agreement with pharmaceutical ingredient supplier CordenPharma will be effective immediately to help meet its increasing demand over the coming months, Moderna said in a statement.

"This expansion will increase supply of lipid excipients used to manufacture our mRNA products," Moderna's chief technical operations and quality officer, Juan Andres, said.

Moderna plans to supply millions of doses per month in 2020 and tens of millions a month in 2021 if the vaccine proves successful.

There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, and experts predict a safe and effective vaccine could take 12 to 18 months from the start of development, which in Moderna's case was in January.