Moderna expects $18.4 billion in sales from COVID-19 vaccine in 2021

Moderna said Thursday that it expects to generate $18.4 billion from sales of its COVID-19 vaccine mRNA-1273 this year, having signed multiple advance purchase agreements for the delivery of hundreds of millions of doses. The news follows Moderna's recent announcement that it is raising its minimum output of the vaccine to at least 700 million doses in 2021, up from 600 million previously, but that it is still working on being able to supply as many as 1 billion doses globally this year.

CEO Stéphane Bancel remarked "I believe that 2021 will be an inflection year for Moderna," with the company posting revenue of $803 million in 2020, including $571 million in the fourth quarter, up from a total of $60.2 million in 2019. The performance was driven by grant revenue, particularly from the US, to help accelerate development of mRNA-1273, as well as product sales.

Moderna's sales estimate for mRNA-1273 comes shortly after Pfizer said that it expects its mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine BNT162b2 to generate revenue of approximately $15 billion this year. The vaccine, which was developed by BioNTech, is priced at around $19 a dose (for related analysis, see ViewPoints: Pfizer’s uber-guidance arrives at the right time).

Ballooning R&D expenses

Despite the surge in revenue, Moderna posted a loss of $747 million last year, up from a loss of $514 million in 2019, mainly as a result of increased R&D expenses associated with the development of mRNA-1273. Moderna noted that R&D spending reached nearly $1.4 billion in 2020, up from $496 million in the prior year. The drugmaker has been working to address SARS-CoV-2 mutations, and earlier this week said a new variant-specific candidate, dubbed mRNA-1273.351, was ready to enter clinical testing, while it is also developing a next-generation, refrigerator-stable candidate, called mRNA-1283.

Bancel noted that more than 32 million doses of mRNA-1273 have so far been administered in the US, where it was authorised for emergency use in December. The vaccine has also been cleared in the UK and EU, among other places, with the company confirming it has supply agreements with 12 governments to date. Along with the already-signed agreements, Moderna said it is in ongoing talks with a number of countries regarding scheduled deliveries for this year and in 2022, when it expects to have capacity to produce up to 1.4 billion doses.

CMO stepping down

Meanwhile, the drugmaker said that chief medical officer (CMO) Tal Zaks will stand down from his position in late September. Bancel credited Zaks, who joined Moderna in 2015 "when we were a preclinical company," with helping to "get [us] to where we are today." Moderna said it is looking to hire a new CMO "with global and commercial experience as the company scales up the launch of its COVID-19 vaccine and prepares to file several biologics license applications over the next few years."

Moderna also said it established eight subsidiaries in 2020 in North America and Europe, and that it has plans to expand its commercial network into Japan, South Korea and Australia this year.

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