On a roll, Moderna taps Thermo Fisher to help with COVID-19 vaccine fill-finish, packaging and labeling

By | June 2, 2021

The globe has come to depend on Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, sending the biotech racing to expand its mRNA manufacturing capacity. In the next step of its effort to meet lofty supply expectations, Moderna is tapping another CDMO powerhouse to help. 

Moderna has tasked Thermo Fisher Scientific with fill-finish, labeling and packaging duties for its mRNA vaccine at Thermo Fisher’s commercial manufacturing site in Greenville, North Carolina, the company said in a Tuesday statement.

The latest agreement will “support the production of hundreds of millions of doses,” and production is set to begin in the third quarter this year, Moderna said.

Moderna already has a standing relationship with Thermo Fisher, which has supplied the biotech with raw materials for its COVID-19 vaccine, said Juan Andres, Moderna’s chief technical operations and quality officer. 

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The new manufacturing deal is one of a handful Moderna has struck to bolster its supply of doses. Just last week, the drugmaker tapped South Korea’s Samsung Biologics to leverage a finishing, labeling and packaging line to crank out “hundreds of millions” of vaccine doses for countries other than the U.S.

As some nations shy away from the COVID-19 shots developed by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson over rare blood clot concerns, they’ve turned toward the mRNA rivals from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. The mRNA companies are also developing booster shots to target troublesome variants of the virus down the line. 

Earlier on Tuesday, Moderna said it’s seeking full FDA approval of its COVID-19 vaccine, which is currently under an emergency use authorization. The drugmaker said in late May that it will soon ask the agency to OK its shot for teens as well. 

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With the help of its partners, as well as major renovations at its manufacturing site in Norwood, Massachusetts, Moderna now expects to churn out 3 billion doses annually starting in 2022. 

Swiss CDMO heavyweight Lonza, Recipharm, Catalent and Spain’s Rovi have also pitched in on the worldwide manufacturing effort.

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For Thermo Fisher, this isn’t the first time the company has stepped in to help make pandemic medicines and devices. The company has worked with the U.S. government to produce viral transport media tubes to carry COVID-19 test samples to laboratories. 

Thermo Fisher also agreed to help Humanigen scale up manufacturing of lenzilumab, a monoclonal antibody for cytokine storm that the company is testing in severe COVID-19 patients. Humanigen said last week that it asked the FDA to grant lenzilumab emergency authorization. 

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