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Meet Moderna's Surprising New COVID Vaccine Partner

By Keith Speights - Mar 10, 2021 at 6:01AM

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Hint: It's a company that's a lot bigger and that's been around a lot longer than Moderna.

In a remarkably short period of time, Moderna (MRNA -4.97%) has become a household name among Americans. The company's COVID-19 vaccine mRNA-1273 became the second to win U.S. emergency use authorization in December. Since then, millions of individuals have received the vaccine. And Moderna's shares have skyrocketed.

Rolling out vaccines on a massive scale isn't something that a biotech that previously had no products on the market can do by itself. Moderna has turned to other companies for assistance. But you might be surprised to learn who Moderna's new COVID vaccine partner is.

A man's finger pointing to an image of DNA with other computer-generated images in the background

Image source: Getty Images.

Combining tech with biotech

Last week, Moderna and IBM (IBM -0.91%) announced plans to work together to manage the distribution of mRNA-1273. The companies intend to explore how IBM's technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and its hybrid cloud platform can be used to improve the visibility of Moderna's vaccine supply chain and implement close to real-time tracking of the administration of mRNA-1273. 

In particular, Moderna and IBM want to employ technological solutions to enable sharing of information between all of the stakeholders involved in vaccination efforts, including government agencies, healthcare providers, individuals, and life science organizations. The hope is that this will increase vaccination rates and ultimately help bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.

IBM already has one product ready for use in its partnership with Moderna. The technology giant's blockchain-based Digital Health Pass enables verification of health credentials including vaccination records. 

The two companies are also working together on vaccine management solutions. The goal of these solutions is to track individual vaccine batches through the entire supply chain beginning with manufacturing facilities and going all the way through the administration of the vaccines.

Moderna's other partners

Moderna has a coalition of partners in addition to IBM that's playing a key role in the company's efforts to produce and distribute mRNA-1273. 

Last year, the company announced a major collaboration with Lonza to manufacture mRNA-1273 in the U.S. and Switzerland. Lonza will make up to 1 billion doses annually of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine.

Moderna also teamed up with contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) Recipharm in late 2020. Reciphram will support formulation and fill-finish of mRNA-1273 at its manufacturing facility in France to help Moderna meet its supply commitments outside of the U.S. 

Earlier this month, Moderna announced a deal with Baxter International to provide fill/finish services and supply packaging for between 60 million and 90 million doses of mRNA-1273 this year. This agreement is important to helping Moderna meet its commitment to supply an additional 100 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to the U.S. government. 

And we can't leave out Takeda. The drugmaker will distribute 50 million doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine in Japan. 

A big year for Moderna

All of these collaborations underscore just how big of a year Moderna will almost certainly have in 2021. Some might think the biotech stock is overpriced at current levels. However, don't be surprised if Moderna has more room to run as mRNA-1273 rakes in billions of dollars in sales this year.

There's also a potentially bright future for Moderna beyond COVID-19. The company plans to advance its cytomegalovirus (CMV) vaccine candidate into late-stage testing this year. Moderna also wants to expand its pipeline significantly and perhaps become one of the biggest vaccine makers in the world within a few years. The biotech's partnerships, including the one with IBM, should be important in helping make this goal a reality.

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Stocks Mentioned

Moderna, Inc. Stock Quote
Moderna, Inc.
MRNA
$136.25 (-4.97%) $-7.13
International Business Machines Corporation Stock Quote
International Business Machines Corporation
IBM
$128.48 (-0.91%) $-1.18
Baxter International Inc. Stock Quote
Baxter International Inc.
BAX
$73.23 (0.87%) $0.63
Lonza Group Ltd Stock Quote
Lonza Group Ltd
LZAGY
$56.43 (2.64%) $1.45
Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited Stock Quote
Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited
TAK
$14.72 (0.96%) $0.14
Lonza Group Ltd Stock Quote
Lonza Group Ltd
LZAGF
$550.54 (2.71%) $14.54

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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