Switzerland's Lonza to boost production for Moderna COVID-19 vaccine


Posted at Apr 29 2021 02:04 PM

Switzerland's Lonza to boost production for Moderna COVID-19 vaccine 1
An employee shows the Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at Northwell Health's Long Island Jewish Valley Stream hospital in New York, US, on December 21, 2020. Eduardo Munoz, Reuters/File

ZURICH - Contract drug manufacturer Lonza plans to double Swiss production capacity for Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, helping the US drugmaker boost total output to as many as 3 billion doses in 2022.

The deal, an extension of a 10-year pact announced in May 2020, foresees three further production lines at Lonza's site in Visp, Switzerland, in addition the three built since last year. Moderna's vote of confidence in Lonza will also increase pressure on the Swiss company to find qualified workers to run operations making the U.S. company's complex mRNA vaccine.

Moderna has warned its vaccine deliveries in the second quarter to countries including Britain and Canada will miss original targets, saying "the trajectory of manufacturing ramp-up" that includes Lonza's plants led to a shortfall.

Lonza, which is now recruiting for workers in Switzerland and abroad, said that it will take lessons from getting its earlier production lines staffed and into operation to help speed commissioning of the new facilities expected to start production in the earlier part of 2022.

"Recruitment for the additional production lines has already commenced," Lonza said. "The company has taken learnings from its previous ramp-up of Moderna drug substance production lines in Visp, and is confident that it can accelerate the operationalization of the new facilities."

Each production line has capacity to make ingredients for roughly 100 million doses annually, so this expansion would bring Lonza's total capacity to 600 million doses. Lonza did not give a value for the extension with Moderna, but it has said each line it built starting in 2020 cost around 70 million Swiss francs ($77 million), and required 60-70 employees to staff.

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