The US government has reached a deal with Johnson & Johnson worth more than $1bn to secure 100m doses of its experimental coronavirus vaccine, as countries around the world scramble to lock up supplies for mass immunisation programmes.
The deal was announced as Moderna, a biotech company developing a rival vaccine, said it had agreed to sell some doses of its inoculation for between $32 and $37, considerably more than competing drugmakers.
The Financial Times reported last week that Moderna, which is lossmaking and has received nearly $1bn from the US to develop its inoculation, had been pitching its coronavirus vaccine to potential buyers in a range of about $50 to $60 per course, which includes two doses.
Moderna on Wednesday said larger volume deals currently under discussion would result in a lower price per dose.
That price carries a significant premium compared with competitors. Recent deals indicate a price of $19.50 a dose for Pfizer and BioNTech’s candidate, and a range of about $3 to $4 per dose for the vaccine currently being developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford. J&J’s supply deal with the US would indicate a price of about $10 a dose.
J&J and AstraZeneca have both said they would not price their vaccine candidates for profit, at least in the first phases of the pandemic. Moderna and Pfizer have said they will seek to make a return.
Other such deals include a $2.1bn agreement struck by the US government with France’s Sanofi and UK-based GlaxoSmithKline for supplying 100m doses. The EU has also struck a deal for 300m doses for that jab, although financial details were not disclosed.
Observers have repeatedly warned that for any coronavirus vaccine to be effective, prices would have to be affordable. Efforts backed by the World Health Organization to remove intellectual property and lower prices have so far garnered limited support from national governments and none from pharmaceutical companies.
“During the pandemic period, we have priced well below value with preapproval supply agreements mostly to governments.” Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive, told analysts on Wednesday.
“In the pandemic period, pricing considerations will follow traditional dynamics and market forces, including vaccine efficacy and the competitive landscape,” Mr Bancel added. “We will look to price in line with other innovative commercial vaccines.”
Moderna said it had held discussions with several countries about selling them doses of the vaccine if it is successful, and that it had received roughly $400m in deposits for potential supply.
The company, which reported financial results on Wednesday, said it recognised “the need for responsible pricing in the face of the pandemic”.
Second-quarter revenues for the company, which does not yet have any products on the market, came in at $66.4m, compared with $13m in the same period of last year. Analysts were expecting revenues of $27.5m, according to FactSet.
The company’s loss narrowed to $117m, from $135m in the second quarter of 2019. Shares in Moderna fell more than 5 per cent in early trading in New York.