To help boost production of its COVID-19 vaccine, Moderna has enlisted the services of Samsung Biologics, a contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) based in South Korea. The companies entered a Manufacturing Services and Supply Agreement in which Samsung will provide large-scale, commercial fill-finish manufacturing for Moderna’s mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine (mRNA-1273).
Once the deal is finalized, Samsung says technology transfer will begin immediately at Samsung Biologics’ manufacturing facilities in Incheon, South Korea. The facilities have a state-of-the-art production line with aseptic fill-finish, labeling and packaging services equipped to churn out hundreds of millions of doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.
The vaccine doses are intended for countries outside the US, with manufacturing planned to commence in the third quarter of 2021. Exactly which countries will receive the doses was not specified by the companies.
Last month, Moderna announced it is upping its COVID-19 vaccine targets, aiming for 800 million to 1 billion doses this year and 3 billion doses by 2022.
“We are pleased to partner with Samsung Biologics for this fill and finish manufacturing, which will help us continue to scale up our manufacturing capacity outside of the US,” said Juan Andres, Moderna’s chief technical operations and quality officer in a news release from the company.
“Due to the high level of urgency in supplying the vaccine to the global population, we have set immediate action plans and schedule to make mRNA-1273 available for commercial distribution in the early second half of 2021,” said John Rim, CEO of Samsung Biologics in the same news release.
Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Manufacturing Woes
Moderna has been struggling to meet manufacturing quotas for its COVID-19 vaccine. As its first and only approved product, the decade-old company did not have capacities for mass production at its lone US plant in Massachusetts. This, compared to Pfizer, which has 40 manufacturing sites scattered across the globe. And now with halts and pauses to AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccines due to concerns of rare blood clots, the load has fallen on the shoulders of Pfizer and Moderna to meet global vaccine demands with their mRNA vaccines.
To address its manufacturing voids, Moderna has partnered with a number of other CDMO bigwigs for production of its COVID-19 vaccine, including Swiss CDMO Lonza and an expanded agreement with Catalent. It also struck a production deal with French pharma giant Sanofi last month, which will roll out 200 million doses of the Moderna vaccine. This is Sanofi’s third production deal, following agreements with Pfizer to manufacture 125 million doses for the European Union, and with Johnson & Johnson to manufacture 12 million doses a month. Sanofi has been stepping up to aid in the production of vaccines for other companies as it is dealing with setbacks to its own COVID-19 vaccine candidate being developed in partnership with GSK.
Moderna also struck a deal with Spain’s Rovi for vaccine finishing production work in Madrid. In addition to fill-finishing, Rovi has also offered to help in the production of the active substance for Moderna’s vaccine.
Moderna says it is in advanced talks for other manufacturing pacts as well.