Moderna CEO vows to grow vaccine business as competition intensifies

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Vaccine maker Moderna faces increasing competition from larger, more established companies as the acute phase of the pandemic subsides. But Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel says he’s not worried.

The challenge was highlighted on Wednesday as healthcare giants


Sanofi
and


GlaxoSmithKline
announced that they were ready to submit their Covid-19 vaccine for regulatory approval. Shares of both companies soared, and it looked like they might have a shot at a shot in much of the Covid-19 booster market, where Moderna is a dominant player today.

In an interview with barrons On Thursday, after announcing results Thursday morning that beat Wall Street estimates, Bancel said his company’s market share was growing and that Moderna (ticker: MRNA) would not be pressured by vaccine holders.

“I think it’s pretty arrogant for big companies to think we can’t bring a product to market at scale,” Bancel said.

In November,


Pfizer
(PFE) has boasted 75% of the U.S. Covid-19 vaccine market, up from 56% in April 2021. Now, however, it is Moderna that is touting its market share back, saying that he held 45% of the booster market in the United States in February, compared to 27% last October.

Globally, Bancel said his company has taken market share from


Astra Zeneca
(AZN) and other manufacturers of non-messenger RNA vaccines. “We took a lot of shares that Pfiizer didn’t,” Bancel said.

As for the vaccine from Glaxo and Sanofi, Bancel said he did not believe the US Food and Drug Administration would authorize another Covid-19 vaccine under the emergency use authorization process.

“My opinion, and history might prove me wrong, is that I don’t believe the FDA will approve more new vaccines as EUAs,” Bancel said.

If he’s right, that would force Glaxo and Sanofi to apply for an organic license, or full approval, a longer process.

“You have as many vaccines as you want in the United States,” Bancel said. “Why would the FDA use this special law for something it doesn’t really need, and with the risk of a safety issue?”

Bancel said Moderna’s business machine is ramping up. ”


Pfizer
took a lot of share in Europe in early 2021 because they could supply the market,” he said. A year ago, Moderna had no people on the ground in Europe. “You have this huge Pfizer machine that goes to government people in France, the UK, etc.,” he said. “Talking to doctors in these countries. Do webinars…and we have no presence.

Moderna has used its windfall profits from sales of Covid-19 vaccines to boost its global presence and said it plans 10 new commercial subsidiaries this year. The company said it had $17.6 billion in cash and investments at the end of 2021.

In a report earlier this year, barrons argued that the company’s substantial war chest gives it a chance to compete with larger, more established vaccine players over the long term. On Thursday, however, the company announced a new $3 billion share buyback.

Bancel defended the takeover, saying the company simply couldn’t spend enough money. “We can’t spend the money fast enough,” he said. “We try to invest to create value, that’s our job.

One problem is that Moderna’s early phase 1 trials are inexpensive. Late-stage trials are more expensive, but while Moderna has some underway, most of its experimental drugs aren’t ready. As for expanding its commercial footprint, Bancel says that’s not that expensive either, and the company wants to do it deliberately.

Moderna’s forecast for 2022 is based on the $19 billion in advance purchase agreements for its Covid-19 vaccine signed so far. Bancel noted, however, that the United States had not yet signed an advance purchase agreement for 2022 and that the country no longer had the option of extending previous vaccine purchase contracts.

This means that if the United States chooses to offer a second round of boosters this fall, as Bancel and his colleagues have argued, it would likely be necessary during an investor call Thursday morning, Moderna’s vaccine sales in 2022 could be well over $19 billion.

Investors liked what they heard from Bancel and his colleagues on Monday. The stock rose 13.3% at the end of the afternoon, even if it remained down 39.5% since the start of the year.

In a morning investor call, Moderna executives argued that a fourth dose would likely be needed in the northern hemisphere this fall.

“While we are optimistic that we are about to enter a period of relative stability in the Northern Hemisphere, we strongly believe that a vaccine booster dose will be required in the fall of 2022 to provide protection. continues against this virus,” the company’s chief said. physician, Dr. Paul Burton.

Burton said a recall given in late 2022 should offer protection against the Delta and Omicron variants.

While some countries, including the UK, have already started offering some populations a fourth dose, the US has not.

Write to Josh Nathan-Kazis at [email protected]

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