Moderna expects $18.4bn from Covid vaccine deals this year

Moderna expects to bring in $18.4bn this year from deals it has signed for its Covid-19 vaccine, as the pandemic transforms the fortunes of the loss-making start-up.

The Boston-based biotech’s coronavirus vaccine revenue forecast is far higher than the $11.2bn that analysts had predicted for 2021, as well as the $15bn that Pfizer said it expected when it reported earnings this month.

Moderna said this number could rise because it was in discussions with governments about more vaccine orders for 2021 and 2022, as well as Covax, the vaccination programme for the developing world.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive, said 2021 would be an “inflection year” for the company.

“We previously believed that mRNA would lead to approved medicines, and we were limited in our ambitions by the need for regular capital raises and keeping several years of cash to manage financing risk,” he said. “We now know that mRNA vaccines can be highly efficacious and authorised for use, and we are a cash-flow generating commercial company.”

The forecasts come after Moderna became the first vaccine maker to unveil a shot tailored to the 501.V2 variant, which was first discovered in South Africa. The company has sent this vaccine to the US National Institutes of Health for use in a trial.

It is also giving a half-dose of the existing vaccine to previous trial participants in hopes of boosting their immunity against the variants, and developing a multivalent vaccine, which could target more than one strain.

In the fourth quarter, Moderna reported revenue of $571m, from US government grants and sales of its Covid-19 vaccine after it became available in the US in December. The company’s net loss of $272m was wider than the $123m for the same period the year before.

Unlike rival BioNTech, which has teamed up with Pfizer for its inoculation, Moderna is not sharing the proceeds with a Big Pharma partner. Moderna is building a global commercial network, opening units in Australia, Japan and South Korea this year.

Moderna’s shot also costs more than the BioNTech/Pfizer one. Prices range from about $25 a dose for the US government, which has funded its vaccine development, to between $32 and $37 a dose for other customers depending on the size of orders. BioNTech/Pfizer is priced at about $19 a dose. Both vaccines require two doses.

Moderna also raised its minimum production for the year to 700m doses, up from 600m, while keeping the upper end of its target at 1bn. The company is expanding manufacturing for next year, to produce up to 1.4bn doses — and possibly more if it ends up giving half-doses as boosters. It expects $350m to $400m in capital expenditure in 2021.

The group’s shares rose 3.6 per cent to $150 in pre-market trading in New York. 

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