Two of the three biggest Covid-19 vaccine makers, Moderna and BioNTech / Pfizer, are rushing to recruit partners to secure their supply chains, people familiar with the talks say as health systems around the world struggle for update immunization programs.
The companies have had their vaccines approved for use in Europe or the United States and are now working to distribute forward orders. Both use messenger RNA technology which is delivered to cells as microscopic oily droplets. Both have been shown to be 95% effective in late stage clinical trials.
The current slower-than-expected rollout of national immunization campaigns has been caused by distribution problems, rather than shortfalls in the supply of components to make the vaccines, people said. Officials in Europe, the United States and UK acknowledged vaccination targets were not met.
Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech, told German magazine Der Spiegel that BioNTech is trying to find new production partners.
“But it’s not as if there are idle specialist factories around the world that could produce vaccines of the quality needed overnight,” he said. “At the end of January, we’ll know if and how much more we can produce.”
Pfizer declined to comment. Moderna did not respond to a request for comment.
Andrey Zarur, head of GreenLight Biosciences, said ingredients stored before vaccine approvals would provide the first doses of $ 1 billion to $ 2 billion, but bottlenecks will emerge afterward.
The challenges include sourcing items ranging from DNA molecules to lipid nanoparticles – the microscopic oily droplets that provide the vaccine’s active mRNA ingredient – he said. “Pfizer and Moderna have started conversations with vendors such as Trilink, Aldevron and New England Biolabs to meet the challenge, but it will require government cooperation and deep cross-sector cooperation to make it work.”
Moderna and BioNTech / Pfizer are looking for partners who can help them support manufacturing, especially for the production of lipid nanoparticles, the people said.
The production of lipid nanoparticles takes place in two stages. There is currently a bottleneck in the production of equipment to make the finished product, one of the people said.
Supply chain issues are nothing new in this pandemic. Earlier this year, there were bottlenecks in PCR testing which is the gold standard in DNA testing as demand increased. Most of the PCR supply chain has now been extended to meet this increased demand.
Additional reporting by Joe Miller in Frankfurt