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Moderna announces plans for COVID-19 variant-specific booster jabs and new production targets

Company is developing variant-specific COVID-19 vaccine candidate

Moderna has announced plans for the development of booster jabs of its COVID-19 vaccine and a new target to increase global production capacity in 2022.

Moderna has unveiled its strategy for booster jabs to increase the effectiveness of its authorised vaccine, mRNA-1273, in a bid to address new ‘variants of concern’.

This includes the variant first discovered in South Africa, known as B.1.351, for which Moderna has developed a variant-specific vaccine candidate – mRNA-1273.351.

Moderna announced yesterday that it had completed manufacturing of clinical trial material for this modified vaccine candidate, and has sent doses of the jab to the US National Institute of Health (NIH) for phase 1 testing.

The company also said that it would develop additional booster doses as part of its strategy to address new and emerging variants.

This includes a multivalent booster candidate, mRNA-1273.211, that will combine Moderna’s authorised vaccine with the mRNA-1273.351 candidate in a single vaccine.

The company will also develop a third dose of mRNA-1273 as a booster at a dose level of 50µg.

Moderna is planning to evaluate mRNA-1273.351 and mRNA-1273.211 in participants who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine and in participants in clinical studies who have had the original mRNA-1273 vaccine.

A previous study of Moderna’s mRNA-1273 vaccine found a decrease in neutralising antibodies against the B.1.351 variant.

The researchers conducting this study noted that ‘protection against the B.1.351 variant conferred by the mRNA-1273 vaccine remains to be determined’.

“As we seek to defeat COVID-19, we must be vigilant and proactive as new variants of SARS-CoV-2 emerge. Leveraging the flexibility of our mRNA platform, we are moving quickly to test updates to the vaccines that address emerging variants of the virus in the clinic,” said Stéphane Bancel, chief executive officer of Moderna.

“Moderna is committed to making as many updates to our vaccine as necessary until the pandemic is under control. We hope to demonstrate that booster doses, if necessary, can be done at lower dose levels, which will allow us to provide many more doses to the global community in late 2021 and 2022 if necessary,” he added.

Separately, Moderna also announced that it will make new investments to increase global manufacturing capacity for its COVID-19 vaccine at its own and partnered manufacturing facilities.

The company expects these investments to increase global capacity in 2022 to approximately 1.4 billion doses of the vaccine, reflecting an assumption of a 100 μg dose.

The output in 2022, Moderna added, will depend on the dose of the booster vaccines, which the company is currently studying.

Moderna is planning to study a dose range of  50 μg and lower for variant-based boosters and an additional booster of mRNA-1273 that, if effective, could significantly increase the anticipated 2022 supply of 1.4 billion doses.

The base plan for 2021 manufacturing has also been increased from 600 million doses to 700 million doses globally.

Moderna added in a statement that it is ‘exploring other approaches’ to further optimise its production operations to potentially increase output this year to one billion doses.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

25th February 2021

From: Research



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