Moderna Rapidly Expands COVID-19 Vaccine Plant Production, Adds 155 Jobs
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While the COVID-19 pandemic has been the worst we've seen in over 100 years, the crisis has brought out the best in the life sciences as companies around the world continue to answer the call.
Moderna, the second company to have its COVID-19 vaccine approved by the FDA, is adding two new production lines at its rebuilt former Polaroid plant to increase overall production capacity by 50%.
With the 350,000 square foot site expansion comes a continued hire flurry for the area. Originally employing 150 workers in 2018, Moderna has created more than 650 new jobs at the Norwood, Massachusetts site. The company received a tax incentive from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center with its new commitment to hire 155 more full-time employees in 2021, with that increased headcount to be retained through 2025.
“The build has been like nothing I’ve ever experienced, to go as fast as we did,” said Matt Barrows, Moderna’s senior director of manufacturing with more than 20 years of experience in biotech. “The build was the journey and continues to be the journey.”
Before 2020, that catalyst year, Boston-area Moderna was a relatively unknown clinical-stage biotech with disinterested investors and not one single approved medicine. But clearly, its mRNA technology was in the works for such a time as this. Over the last year the company has near doubled its workforce from 830 staffers in March 2020 to 1500 in March 2021.
This increase in production capacity shows that Moderna believes this pandemic is far from over. Many countries have yet to receive even close to sufficient supplies of COVID-19 vaccines. Impoverished nations in Africa and parts of Asia are reporting less than 1% of populations vaccinated.
Wall Street analysts are estimating Moderna’s vaccine sales will top $17.1 billion this year, lessen to $16.8 billion in 2022 and drop to $7.4 billion in 2023.
Manufacturing partners for the company are also expanding with a goal to triple global output of the COVID-19 vaccine from 1 billion this year to about 3 billion in 2022. Moderna has opened offices in other countries including Switzerland and a back-office support hub in Poland.
“Our plan and our hope is that, as soon as the U.S. has enough doses, we’re allowed to export so we can help as many countries as we can around the world,” Moderna Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel said.
The mRNA company has been in talks with the government of South Korea to invest $200 million into a vaccine production plant. Moderna was reportedly “highly interested in the Asian market.”
The latest challenge for production is finding the raw materials needed for the manufacturing process, particularly plastic bags, tubes and filters. Moderna’s packaging and label partner for its vaccine, Nosco, just moved to its first Wisconsin plant to expand manufacturing lines. The company is hiring 30-40 new employees at the Pleasant Prairie location.
Moderna has partnered with Magenta Investments for the distribution of its vaccine in the UAE, once authorized by the authorities.
To date, the CDC reports that $149.7 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Of those, nearly 60 million were vaccinated with the Moderna mRNA vaccine. Over 78 million received the first FDA-approved vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech.