June 25, 2020 / 12:41 PM / 15 days ago

Moderna eyes third quarter for first doses of potential COVID-19 vaccine with Catalent deal

(Reuters) - Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) said on Thursday it was partnering with contract drugmaker Catalent Inc (CTLT.N) to prepare an initial 100 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine for the United States, starting in the third quarter of this year.

FILE PHOTO: A sign marks the headquarters of Moderna Therapeutics, which is developing a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., May 18, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

Catalent will fill and package doses, support production and provide additional staffing for around-the-clock operations to produce the vaccine, which is still in clinical trials.

The vaccine, among the first to be tested in humans in the United States, was found to produce protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers last month.

Moderna is preparing to begin the final stages of testing in July to evaluate the vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing the respiratory illness in around 30,000 adult trial participants.

The company previously struck deals with the U.S. government for funds to ramp up manufacturing, and a 10-year collaboration with Swiss contract drugmaker Lonza Group AG (LONN.S), with the aim of 500 million doses a year and 1 billion doses beginning 2021.

Catalent will also provide other packaging and labeling, storage and distribution services at its facilities to support Moderna's late-stage vaccine trial, which is expected to begin in July, Moderna said on Thursday. (reut.rs/384fCLt)

Drugmakers including Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) and AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L) have also signed agreements to boost manufacturing capacity for their experimental vaccines even before having adequate evidence of their efficacy.

There are no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, with vaccines by other drugmakers including Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N), Sanofi SANY.PA and AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L) in various stages of development.

Both Moderna and Catalent are also in talks for producing hundreds of millions of additional doses, the vaccine developer said.

Israel in June signed an agreement with Moderna for the future purchase of its potential COVID-19 vaccine, without disclosing financial details.

Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Arun Koyyur

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