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New partner adds muscle development to covid combat

22 May 2020

Drug manufacturers racing to make covid-19 vaccines and therapies are looking for specialized manufacturers such as Moderna's Lonza Group partner who can scale output to billions of doses needed to supply the world with.

Following the first lots of Moderna's vaccine being manufactured in the U. S. in July, in December, Lonza plans to manufacture additional "industrial quantities" at a site in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, preceded by a site in Visp, Switzerland, in February, Chairman Albert Baehny said in an interview. Each line could produce as many as 100 million doses per year.

Companies and countries are rushing to secure Covid-19 weapons manufacturing muscle as the worldwide death toll climbs past 320,000 and the clamor for any therapy surges. Innovative biotechnology firms like Moderna lack the scale and expertise to sell in quantity, so Lonza has been approached by dozens of other entrepreneurs that need its services. "We've had more than 100 requests, maybe 120, 140, I don't know, "Baehny said. While Lonza has agreed with Moderna to make as many as 1 billion doses a year, Baehny said the company can still take on more production and expects to reach a few more collaborative pacts.

Vaccines are seen as the key to stopping lockdowns and restarting economies, while therapies can play a key role before such time as such inoculations arrive. Many firms are rushing to improve development efficiency and know-how months until their goods are thoroughly evaluated so they can reach the market at full speed. Make enough shots to fulfill global needs fast, "especially though it has a fairly straightforward manufacturing cycle, it shouldn't be overlooked," Jefferies analysts wrote in a note earlier this month. "We agree that the manufacturing of large-scale vaccines poses one of the greatest obstacles and possible bottlenecks in the search for Covid-19 vaccines. "Pent-up demand may be seen when patients scoop up coronavirus vaccinations, whether confirmed or not. Any citizens with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus who depend on hydroxychloroquine were unable to locate the medicines after it was reported by President Donald Trump for Covid-19. Meanwhile, Gilead Sciences is focusing on manufacturing more than 140,000 doses of remdesivir by the end of May and reaching 1 million by year-end. The medication has earned U. S. authorization for emergency use. Food and Drug Administration after reducing the recovery time of covid-19 patients in a clinical trial. Drugmakers around the world are stitching production plans together, undeterred by some of their early results raised questions. Moderna, whose shares had quadrupled since the beginning of the year, tumbled 10 per cent on Tuesday after a warning on the Stat website that the firm has not generated crucial data to determine its vaccine. The U. S. company's stock fell by as much as 5. 9% Wednesday, although Lonza added as much as 2. 4%. 

Some scientists have also faced doubts from a fast-moving vaccine group at the University of Oxford. AstraZeneca, production affiliate, is also preparing to produce 100 million doses of therapeutic inoculation by year end. Johnson & Johnson announced last month a collaboration with Emergent BioSolutions, the first in a series of deals the U. S. pharmaceutical giant expects as it pursues a goal of delivering more than 1 billion doses worldwide. J&J has signed another production contract with Catalent. With the Moderna agreement concluded, Lonza, based in Basel, is now focused on collaborations with Covid therapy producers, but could also follow another vaccine manufacturer, Baehny said. That's suggesting the organization or entity is utilizing a specific technique than Moderna 's solution, based on the genetic material named mRNA, he added. "There are limitations on what we can actually deliver, "he said. "That's why we are and we're going to remain really focused."Lonza manufactures the vaccines' active ingredients, not the finished product, he said. The business could add another production line in North America, two more in Switzerland and one in Singapore if desired. Each line will cost about $60 million to $70 million, although the government will fund the first in the U. S., Baehny said. "We are investing in manufacturing without knowing whether the FDA will basically accept the vaccine," he said. This is "a chance that we have never faced in the past."

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