Moderna: In Search of a Competitive Edge in the COVID-19 Vaccine Race
Moderna, Inc. (Moderna), a US biotech start-up, was a contender in the race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. On November 23, 2020, Moderna announced success in the third-stage clinical trial of its COVID-19 vaccine, soon after larger rival Pfizer Inc. (Pfizer), partnering with BioNTech SE, had reported the successful clinical trial results of its own vaccine. However, large-scale vaccine production was a challenge for Moderna, and its chief executive officer acknowledged that scaling production would not be easy. The two other leading vaccine developers, Pfizer and AstraZeneca plc (AstraZeneca), had fewer challenges with manufacturing capacity; however, Pfizer's vaccine required extreme cold storage, and AstraZeneca's vaccine faced issues with its third-stage clinical trial results. On the consumer front, many Americans were unwilling to be vaccinated for COVID-19, leading to anti-vaccination protests on social media and in public. In November 2020, Moderna was planning to apply to the US Food and Drug Administration for Emergency Use Authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccine manufacturers were racing to see whose vaccine was best. Could Moderna produce the most effective COVID-19 vaccine? Given the uncertainty in consumer demand for the vaccine, should Moderna plan its manufacturing capability based on end-consumer demand or focus instead on seeking government contracts? Saurabh Bhattacharya is affiliated with Newcastle University. Arpita Agnihotri is affiliated with Pennsylvania State University - Harrisburg.