Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech, and CureVac implement different strategies to manufacture mRNA vaccines. While companies like Pfizer were able to retrofit some of their existing facilities, CureVac is currently in the process of building a new facility and it has partnered with numerous contractors to be able to reach production goals. This last strategy is also similar to the one that has been employed by Moderna. Due to the sensitive nature of the information, the investments made to implement these strategies are infrequently stated, and breakdowns of the costs are rarely available.
Cost of Manufacturing Facilities and Contracts
- Independent of any company, the United Kingdom has invested $174 million to develop a state-of-the-art vaccine manufacturing facility that would be ready by the end of 2021.
- CureVac will receive an $85 million (€75 million) loan from the European Investment Bank to develop its manufacturing facility. Other costs such as the overall expansion of the company are also included in this loan.
- The company has partnered with numerous contractors to manufacture the vaccine. These include Fareva and Wacker.
- While recent investments in the context of COVID-19 have not been disclosed, it was reported that Fareva has spent over $90 million (€80 million) in the development of its Val-de-Ruil, France facility during the past 10 years.
- Furthermore, Tesla agreed to build portable mRNA printers to assist in the manufacturing process of the vaccine.
- Moderna has Lonza Group as its contractor for mRNA production. According to a report, building two production lines has a cost of $79 million. Furthermore, 60-70 employees are needed to manage and work on each line.
- A second report stated that there were three new production lines instead of two and that the total cost was $210 million.
- It is to be noticed that the Lonza Group is only in charge of producing the mRNA active ingredient. The delivery vehicles, which are lipids, are produced by CordenPharma and the filling and packaging are produced by a company called Catalent.
- In addition, Moderna has established deals with the Swedish company Recipharm and the Spanish company Laboratorios Farmacéuticos Rovi to expand its manufacturing capabilities. Information about financial agreements made in these deals has not been disclosed.
- Recipharm announced that they would be hiring new staff and perform investments in their facilities to be able to meet the required timelines.
- According to the third quarter report from Moderna, expenses in research and development were $611.5 million during the first nine months of 2020. These expenses correspond to “clinical trial expenses, an increase in raw materials and manufacturing costs, an increase in personnel related costs”, which could in part correspond to manufacturing of the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Before their vaccine was approved, Pfizer had already announced that its sites in Kalamazoo, Michigan; Andover, Massachusetts, and St. Louis, Missouri in the US as well as its facility in Puurs, Belgium would be the manufacturing centers for the vaccine. The Andover plant was retrofitted specifically to make the mRNA vaccine.
- The Kalamazoo plant is the largest owned by the company. It has been estimated that the plant employs 2,500 people. The facility comprises 1,300 acres.
- Furthermore, it had been previously announced that additional employees were being hired in preparation for this process. In addition, parallel supply lines were being developed, materials were being ordered, and technology was being brought over to adapt the facilities. Specific costs of these changes were not disclosed.
- According to a Wall Street Journal report, the head of manufacturing at Pfizer would have spent at least $500 million buying and designing equipment for the production of the mRNA vaccine.
- In addition, Pfizer purchased seven machines, each with a cost of $200 million for the plants in Puurs and Kalamazoo. The machines are instrumental for manufacturing the vaccine as they place the mRNA in the lipid envelope in which it is delivered. Total expense in these machines sums up to $1.4 billion.
- An eighth machine was bought later, raising this amount to $1.6 billion.
Doses per Year and Location of Manufacturing Facilities
- The facility being developed by the UK government is expected to be able to produce 70 million doses in six months, meaning its annual production would be 140 million doses.
- This center is going to be located in Oxfordshire; however, it is expected that it will not be fully functioning until the end of 2021.
- Lonza Group is a Moderna contract manufacturer with a plant located in Switzerland. It has been stated that this plant will be able to produce 800,000 doses per day. This would translate into 292million doses per year.
- Sanofi reached an agreement with BioNTech to loan them its infrastructure for the production of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in their Frankfurt plant. It is estimated that 125 million doses per year would be produced.
- Production at the Frankfurt plant would start during the summer and the vaccines would be destined for the European Union.
- Currently, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine doses destined for Europe are mainly manufactured at Puurs, Belgium, where the Pfizer plant is located. However, there have been significant delays in vaccine delivery.
- The company also has the aforementioned plants in Kalamazoo and St. Louis, where vaccine manufacturing is also taking place.
- In addition, a new manufacturing facility in Marburg, Germany would also help increase production of this vaccine. It is expected that this facility would be able to produce 750 million doses per year.
- Also, another contract was entered with Baxter International. This group would adapt their production facility in Halle, Germany to produce “hundreds of millions of doses”. The facility would start its activities between the end of February and the beginning of March.
- CureVac has reached agreements with contractors Wacker and Fareva to be able to scale up its manufacturing capabilities. According to this company, it would be manufacturing 300 million doses of its vaccine during 2021 and 600 million during 2022.