Lonza CEO Albert Baehny said his company is looking to speed completion of two commercial production lines for Moderna's trial COVID-19 vaccine, so manufacturing could start four to six weeks earlier than planned if the project is successful, as reported in Yahoo!News.
"Four to six weeks would be remarkable, if we can gain this time," Baehny remarked, adding "we know the technology, we feel comfortable with the manufacturing steps. If we can accelerate, let's do it. This is pandemic speed."
He indicated that Lonza, which hopes to make smaller batches of active ingredients for Moderna's vaccine by July, now aims to finish a commercial production line in Portsmouth, NH, a month or so earlier than its original December 2020 target date.
Meanwhile, a second commercial line, at Lonza's site in Visp, Switzerland, had been scheduled for completion in January or February 2021, but now could be ready in December, he added.
Still, the CEO acknowledged possible bottlenecks, including hiring 60 to 70 employees to run each production line, availability of contractors and possible shortages of equipment such as fermentation gear, could slow things down.
Baehny said he is optimistic for Moderna's vaccine, but "we feel confident that if the vaccine does not work, we can use these assets for other mRNA-based projects…This is the advantage of this deal with Moderna for us."