Last summer in Japan, Moderna was busy doing damage control after foreign matter was discovered in vials of its COVID-19 vaccine and the company faced scrutiny over the deaths of a few healthy recipients of the shot.
But a year later, the Massachusetts drugmaker is back in the good graces of the Land of the Rising Sun. On a vaccine diplomacy trip this week to Japan, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel told the Nikkei news outlet that the company would build a manufacturing facility there, contingent upon securing a long-term vaccine deal with the government.
The plant would be an end-to-end producer of shots for COVID, flu and any other vaccines the company might develop with its mRNA technology platform, Bancel told the publication, while referencing moves the company has made in Australia, Canada and England.
In addition, during a press conference Wednesday, Bancel said the company would roll out a new COVID booster in November or December to combat the omicron BA.5 subvariant. Moderna’s chief of operations in Japan, Rami Suzuki, told the Mainichi news outlet that the company would soon apply for authorization of the shot in Japan.
This week, Japan approved the Moderna and Pfizer bivalent boosters that defend against traditional COVID-19 and the omicron BA.1 subvariant.
A Moderna spokesman said the company does not discuss ongoing discussions with governments.
Also during his trip, Bancel reiterated his words from last month, when he said the coronavirus will never disappear and that within the next five years Moderna hopes to have developed a single-dose annual booster shot which would cover COVID, the flu and respiratory syncytial virus.
A year ago at this time, Moderna was defending itself against contamination of its vaccine, which it eventually traced to its Spanish manufacturing partner Rovi. The companies concluded that vials from three batches contained stainless steel shards from friction resulting in two pieces of metal that had been incorrectly installed on a production line.
In October of 2020, Moderna partnered with Takeda to help bring its COVID vaccines to the Japan. Earlier this year, Takeda agreed to return marketing rights and other regulatory responsibilities for the shot to Moderna.
Source: Fierce Pharma