A potential authorization of Moderna's (MRNA -3.52%) coronavirus booster candidate clearly would be good news for the company. The coronavirus vaccine leader submitted data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month. Now, it's waiting to hear whether individuals who received the two-dose primary series early this year may soon roll up their sleeves for a third shot.
If the FDA gives Moderna the OK on this, eventually more doses could be sold. The idea is people will need three doses instead of only two. But this isn't the only positive for this biotech company. An authorization of its booster could represent billions of dollars for Moderna -- and market share. All because of one detail.
1 billion doses
And that detail is the dosage level. Today, Moderna's coronavirus vaccine includes 100 micrograms of product. According to that figure, Moderna can estimate how many doses it is able to produce in a given timeframe. For instance, Moderna forecasts it can make as many as 1 billion doses this year and as many as 2 billion next year.
But next year's figure could increase by as much as 1 billion -- moving to capacity of 3 billion doses. How? If Moderna could produce most doses at a lower dosage level. The biotech company has requested authorization of its booster at a 50-microgram dose. So Moderna's production could soar if regulators give the go ahead.
This would be good news for Moderna for a few reasons. First, it would save money. A lower level of active ingredients in the vial means each dose will be less costly for Moderna to produce. Next, as I mention above, the 50-microgram dose would allow the biotech to make more doses.
Right now, Moderna is limited. On the most recent earnings call, CEO Stéphane Bancel said the company wasn't taking any more orders for 2021 "because we are totally maxed out."
More doses would mean ability to gain market share -- instead of turning away customers.
The Moderna vaccine price
And finally, more doses produced equals the potential for more revenue. Pricing for the Moderna vaccine varies according to countries' income levels, order volumes, and other factors. But here is a general guide. Moderna offers the lowest price to low and middle-income countries. Then, pricing ranges from the U.S.' initial order at $15 a dose through $37 a dose. Even if half of the extra 1 billion doses sell for $15 a dose, we're looking at $7.5 billion in revenue.
Now, you might be wondering about Moderna's chances of scoring a 50-microgram booster authorization. The FDA is moving in that direction, Bloomberg News reported this week. The news agency cited people familiar with the situation. Regulators recently authorized rival Pfizer's booster shot for some individuals who received the Pfizer primary series. Those who received the Moderna shot are waiting for news on the Moderna candidate. So, it's likely regulators will aim for rapid action on the Moderna request too.
Considering the solid data Moderna has reported so far, I'm optimistic about the outcome of regulatory meetings.
The long-term benefit
Moderna won't see financial gains from a booster immediately. It will take the company time to transition into producing the lower-dose product. And it also will take time to win additional orders and deliver doses. The half-dose booster is a detail that will benefit Moderna in the long term.
Of course, by that time, the pandemic may be over. Moderna faces the risk that revenue will drop off at this point. Still, experts say the virus will continue to circulate. And that means people around the world will continue to need vaccination -- and boosters to give immunity an extra lift. It's very likely that countries will continue to place significant orders with this in mind. Moderna has already signed supply deals through 2024.
This year, Moderna expects to generate $20 billion in vaccine revenue. Advance purchase agreements and options for more doses total the same level of revenue for next year. At this point and beyond, the lower-dose booster may be one of the keys to keeping this great revenue story going.