Moderna CEO says Covid vaccines will evolve like ‘an iPhone’

As Covid-19 continues to mutate, Moderna will need to keep updating the vaccines that have made it a global household name while trying to make it more convenient for consumers, CEO St├ęphane Bancel said in an interview with CNN Business Wednesday.

He estimated a “three to five year” timeline for the new combined product and compared the development of the life-saving jab to that of a smartphone.

“You don’t get the amazing camera, all the amazing stuff the first time you get an iPhone, but you get a lot,” he said.

“A lot of us buy a new iPhone every September and you get new apps and updated apps. And that’s exactly the same idea, which is you’re going to get Covid and flu and RSV. [respiratory syncytial virus] in its single dose.”
After experiencing skyrocketing growth during the pandemic, modern (mRNA) it is now under pressure to identify its next great frontier.

Bancel believes the Covid-19 pandemic that helped the company rack up tens of billions of dollars in revenue and generate business in more than 70 markets globally could end as soon as this year.

That doesn’t mean the virus is going anywhere, he noted.

“I think we are slowly moving, if not already in some countries, to a world where all the tools are available, and everyone can make their own decision based on their risk tolerance,” he explained, adding that I thought more people would choose. to “live with the virus”, as they do with the flu.

The approach, however, will continue to vary widely, such as among immunocompromised people or in countries like Japan, where wearing masks was common even before the pandemic, he acknowledged.

And “there’s always a 20% chance that we’ll have a very nasty variant that leads to a very severe disease that has a lot of mutation,” he added.

The next big thing

Still, Moderna is determined not to become a one-hit wonder.

The company has more than 40 products in development and is planning for life beyond Covid-19, Bancel said.

In addition to an updated annual booster, it continues to develop a personalized cancer vaccine, for which new clinical data will be released later this year. Bancel said the product could be approved in about two years if all goes well.

The company is also exploring a possible monkeypox attack, which is “still in the lab today,” Bancel said. The World Health Organization declared the global outbreak of the disease a public health emergency of international concern last month.

And Moderna is looking to catch up with competitors abroad.

Earlier this year, it announced a push into 10 Asian and European markets, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Denmark and the Netherlands. The investments will cost “tens of millions of dollars” and include hundreds of new hires, Bancel said.

Members of the public wait in line at a vaccination center administering the Moderna Covid-19 shot in Taipei, Taiwan, in April.  The company is moving deeper into Asia this year through the creation of new subsidiaries.
He sees it as a single wave of expansion that will eventually take Moderna from operating directly in 12 countries this year to “between 40 and 60 countries” over the next three years.
The company has also recently signed manufacturing deals in the UK, South Korea and Australia, and hopes to establish one or two more plants in Southeast Asia or North Asia.

Bancel said the new facilities would be crucial to help adapt their products to different types of diseases that are developing around the world.

Pfizer and Moderna created vaccines that can save lives.  So why are their shares collapsing?

When the world first faced the emergence of Covid-19, Moderna was one of the few major manufacturers that rushed to prepare their vaccines, reducing the timelines from years to months. Its stock rose 434% in 2020 and 143% last year.

But now, as colleagues Pfizer (PFE) i BioNTech (BNTX)the company’s shares have tumbled, down more than 30% so far this year and 64% from their all-time high a year ago.
Last week, the company disclosed that it took a write-down of nearly $500 million in the second quarter, in part due to a sudden cancellation of orders for Covax, the international vaccination program for high-income countries lower ones

The investment led to huge losses for the company, which had bought new machines to fulfill those orders and, more importantly, caused Covid vaccines to be thrown in the trash, Bancel said.

“We ended up destroying the vaccines,” he said. “It was really heartbreaking.”

The director-general said he was not concerned that this kind of drop in demand would be repeated in richer countries, in part because governments had already shown a commitment to using vaccines later this year to avoid the reintroduction of lockdowns economic

But “on the low-income side, yes, I’m concerned,” he said.

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