Moderna Inc has announced it was working with contract pharmaceutical group Catalent Inc on Thursday to prepare an estimated 100 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine for the US beginning in the third quarter this year.
Catalent must fill and package doses, facilitate manufacturing, and provide extra resources to manufacture the vaccine, which is still in clinical trials, for 24-hour operations, Reuters reported.
In a small group of healthy volunteers last month, the vaccine, among the first to be studied in humans in the US, was found to produce protective antibodies.
The deal also includes Catalent, Somerset, N.J., including additional resources at the Biologics plant at Catalent, Bloomington, Indiana. The companies have said that they are negotiating fill-finish potential for hundreds of millions of doses to continue production.
Catalent will also provide clinical procurement facilities for the vaccine from its Philadelphia facility in support of Moderna's Phase III clinical trial.
According to Moderna chief technical operations and quality officer Juan Andres, they are happy with the partnership with Catalent and the "flexibility of their team to deliver critical fill-finish capacity for mRNA-1273 at unprecedented speed," Shanthi Rexaline of Benzinga quoted Andres as saying.
Moderna's mRNA-1273 is being strictly analyzed in separate Phase 1 and Phase 2 research, with initial results to be released from the Phase 1 study that will validate its immunogenicity and safety. The biotech firm plans to commence with Phase 3 study in July.
The firms developing the potential drugs for COVID-19 are already preparing manufacturing deals to be able to accelerate the timeframe it requires to disperse the vaccines into the public, even before the now experimental drugs make pass the clinical trial phases. Since the beginning of 2020, Moderna's stock has climbed 232 percent, shares of Catalent rallied 25 percent, and the S&P 500 retreated 5.5 percent.
Shares of Moderna have more than tripled so far this year, as investors rushed to the stock in the midst of optimism for the potential of its virus medication. At the moment, the rally seems to go on strong. Indeed, the $87.64 average analyst price target still suggests a bullish 43 percent upside potential based on current levels.
On Thursday, five-star analyst Geulah Livshits at Chardan Capital reiterated a Buy Rating on Moderna stock with a $84 price aim. The deal with Catalent has placed another "piece in place towards Moderna's commercial deployment of mRNA-1273 if positive clinical data emerge," Livshits wrote in an investors note, Sharon Wrobel of Smart Analyst reported.