Moderna targets 15 pathogens in ‘global public health strategy’

by Stephen Riddle

Moderna has unveiled plans to start clinical trials of mRNA-based vaccines for 15 infectious diseases that pose the biggest public health risks around the world – including HIV, malaria and tuberculosis – by 2025.

The programme is targeting pathogens that have been deemed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to have the greatest impact on the health of people around the world.

Moderna is meanwhile also launching a new programme – called mRNA Access – that it says will offer researchers access to Moderna’s mRNA technology platform to develop their own vaccines for emerging or neglected infectious diseases.

“mRNA Access will open our production capabilities and development expertise to partners so together we can explore the possibility of mRNA, in search for the next life-saving vaccine,” said the biotech.

Collaborators will be able to submit vaccine designs which would then be produced using Moderna’s platform, with intellectual property shared. At least some of the 15 target diseases would likely be addressed by this partnering approach, said Moderna chief executive Stéphane Bancel.

Moderna is already working on some of the 15 pathogens highlighted in the programme, including HIV, COVID-19, Nipah and Zika virus.

Other programmes on the list include chikungunya, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, dengue, Ebola, malaria, Marburg, Lassa fever and MERS, which are big threats but haven’t been adequately addressed by the pharma industry.

The latest moves come after Moderna has been in the firing line for contributing to inequality in access to COVID-19 vaccination by focusing deliveries of its Spikevax shot to wealthy, industrialised nations, which helped it to a net profit of more than $12 billion last year from a net loss of $750 million in 2020.

The company accompanied its latest clinical development plans with a pledge to never enforce patents on its COVID-19 shot in 92 low- and middle-income countries, shortly after announcing plans to build an mRNA manufacturing facility in Kenya with the assistance of the US government.

It says it plans to invest up to $500 million in the plant, which will handle drug substance manufacturing and potentially also fill/finish production, with the goal of manufacturing up to 500 million doses per year.

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