Moderna in talks to supply COVID-19 vaccine to Japan

The talks closely follow similar discussions with the European Union to supply its vaccine candidate mRNA-1273.

FILE PHOTO: A sign marks the headquarters of Moderna Therapeutics, which is developing a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., May 18, 2020 (photo credit: BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS)
FILE PHOTO: A sign marks the headquarters of Moderna Therapeutics, which is developing a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., May 18, 2020
(photo credit: BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS)
American biotech company Moderna Inc. has confirmed it is in discussions with Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare regarding the potential purchase of 40 million or more doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
The company has been working on bringing its candidate, mRNA-1273, to the market as soon as possible. Trials of the vaccine carried out on monkeys in June yielded promising results, and human trials are already underway.
Under the terms of the agreement, Moderna Inc. would supply the vaccine, and Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. would distribute it in Japan, beginning in the first half of 2021, provided the vaccine achieves regulatory approval, the company said in a statement.
Japan's Health Minister Kato Katsunobu announced the discussions at a press conference in Japan.
The discussions follow closely those had by the company with the European Union. Moderna is currently in talks to supply the EU with 80 million doses of mRNA-1273, doubling the total number of doses available for use by nations within the Union. In Europe, Moderna is working with Lonza of Switzerland and ROVI of Spain, on a dedicated supply chain for manufacturing and fill-finish of its products outside the United States.
Moderna's focus in general is on using mRNA - the instruction manual used by every cell in the body to make the proteins necessary to carry out all functions, including in human health and disease - to create a new category of medicines based on this natural process. Since its founding in 2010 the company has worked to pioneer medicines made of mRNA, including vaccines.
Moderna, which has never brought a vaccine to market, has received nearly $1 billion from the US government for its efforts. The United States is helping bankroll several vaccine candidates under its Operation Warp Speed program.

Reuters contributed to this report.