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Moderna rejected China's request to reveal vaccine technology

Talks over a sale in China fell apart after Moderna refused to hand over the core intellectual property behind its groundbreaking coronavirus vaccine development to China, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Massachusetts-based pharmaceutical company has criticized Beijing’s request to hand over its messenger RNA vaccine recipe for commercial and safety reasons, according to two people involved in negotiations that took place from 2020 to 2021. It is said that he declined out of concern. ” sells products to China.

The mRNA vaccine technology used by Moderna and BioNTech/Pfizer is more durable and provides a higher level of protection than the inactivated vaccine technology used by Chinese manufacturers. Several Chinese pharmaceutical companies are racing to develop home-made mRNA replacements, but are struggling with the emergence of more infectious variants.

An individual close to the Moderna team in Greater China said the company has “give up” on previous efforts to access the Chinese market. This is because Beijing has demanded that the technology be handed over as a prerequisite for selling to China.

So far, Beijing has offered two routes for foreign Covid-19 vaccine makers to market in China, subject to regulatory approval of the underlying technology. Moderna was forced to choose the former.

German group BioNTech has signed a deal with Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical to conduct clinical trials and commercialize the vaccine in 2020. This meant that we maintained control of our intellectual property. Under the partnership, Fosun has agreed to provide a factory to manufacture 1 billion doses per year.

In contrast, the Shanghai-based Everest Medicines group has signed a deal to access an mRNA vaccine candidate from Canadian biotech company Providence Therapeutics with full technology transfer.

Beijing has not granted regulatory approval to either vaccine.

Moderna executives didn’t want to give their Chinese partners the recipe for the vaccine, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Moderna strictly protects its intellectual property around the world and says assigning patents does little to address supply constraints. Negotiations in Italy for technology transfer to local manufacturing sites also fell through, with Moderna citing a lack of ability to oversee it.

China has not approved mRNA products for therapeutic purposes, and mass production of this kind of vaccine is more complicated than the existing Chinese inactivated vaccines made by Sinopharm and Sinovac.

Moderna has said in recent weeks that it intends to resume talks with China. The company’s chief medical officer, Paul Burton, said earlier this month, “If China sees the need for a vaccine, it will be very eager to work with China.”

Burton’s comments come days after U.S. President Joe Biden declared “the pandemic is over,” reducing the market value of major vaccine makers, including Moderna, by more than $10 billion.

Moderna told the Financial Times, “We are not currently negotiating supply with China.

Industry insiders note that the company is resuming talks with China, the last major economy without an mRNA jab.

Moderna has shipped more vaccines to high-income countries than the other three major vaccine makers, according to Airfinity, a data company that monitors vaccine shipments, and the strategy could generate billions of dollars in profits. raising. More than 86% of Moderna’s jabs were delivered to high-income countries, compared to 74% for BioNTech/Pfizer, 63% for Johnson & Johnson and 19% for AstraZeneca.

The slowdown in demand has plagued all major coronavirus vaccine makers, but with Covid-19 Jab being the only product approved, the pressure on Moderna’s management is especially acute.

Additional reporting by Jamie Smith of New York