ZURICH (Reuters) – Swiss contract drug manufacturer Lonza received a key licence from Switzerland to produce ingredients for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, regulator Swissmedic said on Monday, a boost for a global inoculation program that has hit some snags.
The licence, for Lonza’s new $70 million production line in Visp, Switzerland, dedicated to make ingredients for the Moderna vaccine, will help boost the U.S.-based company’s deliveries to Europe, Canada and other nations outside the United States.
Moderna scaled back some deliveries in February to countries in Europe while insisting its vaccine shipments would still hit targets for the first quarter and beyond as Lonza’s production of ingredients accelerated. Swissmedic’s licence, for the first of three large production lines in Visp, will help meet that goal.
“The licence was issued last week following a successful inspection of the production plant in Visp. At this newly approved site Lonza can manufacture, on behalf of Moderna, active substances for COVID-19 vaccines,” Swissmedic said in a statement.
Global vaccine supplies have hit some snags, as Johnson & Johnson’s has flagged potential supply issues, and countries including Germany temporarily suspended use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine while reports of health issues in people who have been vaccinated are investigated.
Lonza’s Visp facility received a so-called establishment licence, which Swissmedic said proves that the company has the “resources and processes needed to ensure and constantly monitor the quality of its products”.
Two additional production lines at Lonza in Visp are nearing completion, while another Lonza plant in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is supplying Moderna for vaccines destined for the United States.
Lonza Chief Executive Pierre-Alain Ruffieux has said it could take a couple of months before Lonza’s new facilities hit “cruising speed”. Moderna has committed to supplying 700 million to 1 billion doses of its COVID-19 vaccine worldwide in 2021.
(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Paul Simao)