The pharmaceutical industry is more prepared for a future pandemic following Covid-19, said Nicolas Chornet, senior Vice President International Manufacturing, Moderna, during a discussion at the CPHI Europe meeting.

In terms of manufacturing capacity and ability to scale up production quickly, the pharmaceutical world is more structured and ready to tackle future pandemics, he said. “The regulatory pathways have been traced now and we also have mRNA vaccines on the market” he added, which is also helpful in terms of preparedness for future pandemics.

Chornet said that Moderna, one of the earliest companies to successfully develop a mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, learned tremendously during the pandemic. The company understood how to leverage its platform and discovered that it is very versatile. “The mRNA platform is not one product, it is applicable to all therapy areas” and today development is focused on “oncology, latent and rare diseases as well as infectious diseases, that are progressing with the clinical trials”, Chornet stated.

From a technical standpoint, Chornet mentions that one of the key lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic is the need for integration of artificial intelligence (AI) tools to increase the efficiency of processing and manufacturing capabilities, an area that he thinks is  “expanding exponentially”. One example of Al applications mentioned during the talk was Moderna’s use of proprietary precise self-learning algorithms that can design the mRNA needed for the desired molecular outcome. Leveraging Al tools will be essential to tackle the challenges of translating Moderna’s mRNA platform into new therapeutic areas such as oncology, said Chornet.

On the topic of partnerships and utilization of CMOS, Chornet mentioned that Moderna is investing in its own infrastructure as it is expanding. Specifically, the pharmaceutical company is building sites in the UK, Canada and Australia. However, when the company initially started its international expansion it partnered with contract manufacturing organisations (CMOs), laboratories and healthcare agencies very quickly and these partnerships continue as the company grows its manufacturing capability in-house. He stated that there should be a balance between internal capacity and manufacturing partnerships. 

“During the pandemic, everybody connected, while now we’re suddenly back to the old ways,” said Chornet. The field needs to maintain the connection formed during the first years of the Covid-19 pandemic and that there is still room for more and more collaboration, which will be key for Moderna’s approach, he added.

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CPHI Europe, took place 24-26 October in Barcelona.