Biotechnology company Moderna, is expecting to making over three billion doses of its Covid-19 vaccine this year, the company’s co-founder, Robert Langer, has said. Moderna would continue to scale up in 2022 to take the vaccines to more places.
Langer, who is also the Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was speaking at Venture Centre’s Innovation and Technology Enterprise lecture series on ‘From Lab bench to clinic: How to solve global health challenges by developing new therapies through innovation and founding new companies’. This talk was organised to commemorate 15 years of Venture Centre hosted at the CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory in Pune.
Proffesor Langer spoke on how advanced drug delivery systems developed in his lab led to products and companies, which pioneered novel treatment for diseases such as cancer and the development of the Covid-19 vaccine. He gave several examples of translating research into business ventures. Langer has participated in the founding of more than 40 companies, including the Massachusetts-based biotech firm Moderna, a company that pioneered messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutics and vaccines. He pointed out that mRNA was developed by a tiny company like Moderna as no large companies would do it. In case of Covid-19, he said smaller companies like Moderna and BioNtech made a giant difference.
Speaking on the timeline taken to develop the Covid vaccine, Langer said the Chinese scientists published the virus genetic sequence on January 11, 2020, Moderna finalised the mRNA vaccine design in two days and were ready on January 13, 2020. The first vaccine was shipped for testing to the National Institute of Health on February 24, 2020 and first dose was administered on March 16, 2020, he said. The vaccine had an efficacy of 95%.
The company had many years of investment in mRNA technology so they were able to develop and launch the Covid-19 vaccine, which helped millions of people around the world. Apart from scaling in 2022, Moderna is also developing more Covid-19 vaccines and combinations. They were working an Omicron-containing booster vaccine candidate (mRNA-1273.529). There were 23 different clinical trials going on at Moderna, he said.
Moderna shipped 807 million doses of their mRNA Covid-19 vaccine globally in 2021. Around 25% of those doses shipped to low- and middle-income countries.