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