Posted on Sep 9, 2021 at 6:14 PMUpdated Sep 9, 2021, 6:35 PM
“Moderna is not the Covid-19 vaccine company. In any case, not only. “This is the message hammered home to envy by Stéphane Bancel, the boss of the American biotech at the origin of one of the first vaccines against the coronavirus, during an R & D day organized this Thursday. The opportunity for Moderna researchers to detail the 37 or so projects in the pipeline, at different stages of progress. To mature this rich “pipeline”, Moderna currently has 15 billion dollars in cash, an unimaginable sum for a biotech gleaned thanks to the immense success of its vaccine.
In-house technologies – production of RNA, nanolipid particles and their conjugation – make it possible to imagine many other applications, from prevention to treatment, in various fields going beyond infectious diseases, which the company has begun to explore. in concentric circles from his initial success against the Covid.
A treasure of 15 billion
Whatever the age, recalls the company, relying on independent studies, Moderna’s vaccine is the most immunogenic. And if its effectiveness decreases in the face of variants, it does not drop below 75%. Hence the choice, ultimately, not to change the RNA of the third dose, even if Moderna prepared RNAs taking into account the modifications of the different variants, including prospectively, in case its initial vaccine becomes less effective. .
The next challenge Moderna is tackling is protection against the flu. A first vaccine that is more effective than the current vaccines that take a long time to develop each year is currently in Phase I, but the goal is to offer a combined Covid-19 / influenza. “The population will keep the epidemic in mind and will be much more willing to recurrent vaccination,” said Stéphane Bancel. The influenza vaccine market could thus grow to the tune of 5 or 6 billion dollars. In addition, a combined vaccine will be less expensive and less restrictive than two vaccines.
But, believes Stéphane Bancel, there are other respiratory diseases against which it would be useful to protect oneself, such as RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), which affects infants and the elderly. There, Phase I is completed but Moderna is also launching a development program combined with metapneumovirus, which affects the same populations every winter.
Zika, CMV, cancer or AIDS in the back of my mind
Beyond infectious respiratory pathologies, Moderna also has vaccine projects against Zika or against HIV-AIDS or CMV (cytomegalovirus), the most advanced of all. And vaccine projects for therapeutic purposes against cancer (a Phase II in progress in combination with Keytruda from Merck-MSD) and treatments in the cardiovascular field or that of rare diseases.
“My role is to make this company grow,” says Stéphane Bancel, who envisions it ten times larger than it is today and sees it as a “medicine company based on new technologies” thanks to massive investments in the digital technology and robotics and the systematic use of artificial intelligence.