US biotechnology company Moderna Inc, one of the two leading makers of mRNA vaccines for COVID-19, on Tuesday announced that it would establish four subsidiaries in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore to support delivery of its vaccines and therapeutics.
The subsidiary in Taiwan is expected to be set up by the end of this year, Moderna told Chinese-language media, adding that it would recruit local talent and collaborate with local hospitals on clinical trials.
Moderna has signed a contract with Taiwan to offer 20 million COVID-19 vaccine and booster doses this year, and another 15 million next year, the company said in a statement.
In Taiwan, its COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for people aged 18 or older, while its booster shots can be given to those who had their second dose five months prior, it said.
Moderna provides Taiwan with its mRNA-1273 vaccine, which targets variants of SARS-CoV-2, and it is developing a next-generation vaccine that it expects to launch in the second half of this year, pending regulatory approval, Moderna senior vice president Patrick Bergstedt said in an interview with the Chinese-language United Daily News.
“This is why we set up a subsidiary in Taiwan — we hope to cooperate with local hospitals and regulators directly so that we could provide our vaccine,” United Daily News quoted Bergstedt as saying.
More studies are required to determine whether booster shots should be given once every six months or once a year, he said.
Moderna did not say whether it would consider manufacturing its COVID-19 vaccine in Taiwan, but the Central News Agency (CNA) yesterday reported that the government is attempting to arrange a technology transfer for the vaccine.
To facilitate a transfer, the government plans to set up a new company in which the National Development Fund would hold a stake of less than 49 percent and the remaining shares would belong to private companies, CNA reported.
South Korea’s Samsung Biologics Co has since May last year been assigned the fill and finish manufacturing task for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines, corporate data showed.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) last year told lawmakers that the US is protective of its mRNA technology, so there would be a higher chance of Taiwan participating in the back-end manufacturing processes, such as fill and finish — the process of filling vials with vaccine and finishing the process of packaging the medicine — than in core manufacturing.
However, Taiwan would strive to transfer the technology, he said.
Asked whether Moderna’s decision to set up a branch in Taiwan could lead to the company’s vaccines being produced in Taiwan or other types of cooperation, Chen yesterday said that the ministry does not know the company’s development plans, but welcomes it to Taiwan and would not exclude the possibility of further cooperation.
Moderna said that the addition of the four subsidiaries comes as it continues to scale up the manufacturing and distribution of its COVID-19 vaccine, and future mRNA vaccines and therapeutics.
The Asia-Pacific region represents an integral part of Moderna’s business, with established subsidiaries in Australia, South Korea and Japan, it said.
Additional reporting by Lee I-chia
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