Pharmaceutical giant Moderna has revealed its plans for the development of vaccines for 15 pathogens that show dangerous potential to become future pandemics. These pathogens are expected to become a major concern in the coming years and are called priority pathogens.
These pathogens include HIV, Lassa fever, Ebola, Chikungunya, Dengue, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, Nipah virus, Malaria, Marburg, and MERS. Moderna is working with partners for the development of these vaccines.
These collaborations include the U.S. National Institute of Health and the Gates Foundation for Nipah virus vaccine and HIV vaccine respectively.
The U.S. company announced its strategy to build and test these vaccines for the 15 infectious agents before the upcoming Global Pandemic Preparedness Summit.
The Global Pandemic Preparedness Summit is co-sponsored by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the United Kingdom government to prevent and predict infectious diseases.
Moderna has indicated that it will forfeit its patents permanently for COVID-19 vaccine shots for countries with low and middle incomes, while at the start of the current pandemic during the emergency health crisis phase, the company had not enforced its vaccine patents either.
Furthermore, the pharmaceutical company is initiating a program named “mRNA Access” that will open up its mRNA technology to researchers, making it available for the development of newer vaccines for upcoming diseases, or for diseases that have not been given adequate attention.
In a virtual press conference, Moderna’s Chief Executive stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects with over 6M people succumbing to the virus and millions otherwise infected. Precious lives have been lost to the COVID-19 virus and the pathogens the company now hopes to target are to prevent this from happening again.
The 15 viruses are an understood threat in the medical world but have not been targeted by other large pharmaceutical companies.
Moderna waiving its enforcement of vaccine patents has allowed the development of African manufacturing plants as a pilot project. This project is backed by the World Health organization and aims to build access of poor and middle income countries to COVID-19 vaccines through the acquisition of manufacturing knowledge.
The pharmaceutical company has announced that it will permanently waive its patent under the COVAX program for over 90 low as well as middle income countries. The COVAX program is under the GAVI vaccine alliance and aims to provide COVID-19 vaccine access to countries that need it.
A company representative further added that Moderna will not be enforcing its COVID vaccine patents on South African developed vaccines. Afrigen Biologics has developed these vaccines for countries in the AMC-92 low- and middle-income bracket and is a WHO-backed technology transfer company.
However, this does not mean that the company will share its vaccine technology with Afrigen Biologics, even with the lobbying the technology transfer hub is doing in South Africa.
In the future, Moderna Inc. is planning to make its vaccine technology accessible for academic research laboratories with the vision that they will be able to conduct testing of their theories on vaccines for viruses, such as the priority pathogens. Through this testing, the possibility of collaboration with these labs may emerge.
The company hopes that with researchers gaining access to their technology progress can be made in addressing future pandemics. Through this program, mRNA technology can be further studied and developed.
Expected to start with a few research labs, steady and rapid growth in the induction of labs into the program is hoped. This allows for an increased understanding of pathogens, which is made possible through Moderna’s technology sharing.
Moderna has also plans to set up a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility in Africa, first of its kind in the region by the company. The facility will be set up by the company in Kenya and was announced earlier this month.