In part to increase the potential market reach of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) is opening its first commercial hub outside the United States. The new operation will be in Switzerland, where the company is already working with Swiss drug manufacturer Lonza.
Moderna is using its messenger-RNA (mRNA) platform to develop its candidate, mRNA-1273, which is designed to leverage the body's own genetic messengers to signal it to create antibodies against the novel coronavirus, providing those inoculated with some protection from infection.
The company has already begun a phase 3 clinical trial of mRNA-1273. However, it announced last month that it's slowing enrollment in an attempt to adjust and recruit a more diverse population of trial participants. Tapping the brakes on enrollment may mean it will take longer for the study to produce sufficient data to determine the vaccine's efficacy and safety, but it may allow the company to target a broader addressable market if mRNA-1273 earns regulatory approval.
The market for a COVID-19 vaccine in Europe will be substantial. More than 446 million people live in the European Union, compared to 328 million people in the United States. Moderna has already agreed to provide up to 100 million doses of mRNA-1273 to the U.S. government for up to $1.525 billion, assuming it gets approved for use.
Moderna hasn't announced a similar deal for the broader EU, but it has agreed to provide the Swiss federal government 4.5 million doses of mRNA-1273. In August, management said advanced negotiations were underway for an agreement under which it would provide up to 160 million doses to EU member countries.
Overall, Moderna's global manufacturing goal is to be able to deliver between 500 million and 1 billion doses of mRNA-1273 annually, beginning in 2021.