Moderna Lures Pfizer Executive With U.K. Contract in Limbo
(Bloomberg) -- Moderna Inc. lured an executive from rival Pfizer Inc. to become its first-ever U.K. regional head as a contract with the country for Covid-19 vaccines appears in danger of lapsing.
The company hired Darius Hughes, the former head of Pfizer’s U.K. and Ireland vaccines business unit, in July as U.K. country director, he confirmed in a Bloomberg interview Tuesday. Hughes is tasked with growing Moderna’s business in the U.K., including potentially renegotiating its Covid-19 vaccine contract, which is yet to be renewed.
Moderna is expanding after it was propelled onto the world stage by the success of its Covid-19 vaccine -- one of the first shots to be authorized globally. The vaccine was the first product the company brought to market, causing the shares to skyrocket. Chief Executive Officer Stephane Bancel said last week the company is considering opening up a couple of additional subsidiaries in big markets.
The U.K. contract with Moderna expires at the end of this year, Hughes said. Britain has ordered 17 million doses of Moderna’s messenger RNA shot for delivery in 2021, with about 10 million received so far, according to Hughes. The remaining supplies are expected to arrive as contracted but no further orders have been made. The U.K. has used about 3 million Moderna doses to date, he said.
The U.K government’s decision to offer half doses of the Moderna shot as boosters means the country now has double the number of the company’s shots for third vaccinations. Britain also has contracts with some drugmakers such as GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Sanofi whose vaccines haven’t yet completed trials but may come online next year if successful.
A spokesperson for the U.K.’s Department of Health and Social Care didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on its vaccine contract with Moderna.
Other Moderna country heads are expected to be announced for Spain, France and Germany in the coming weeks, according to Hughes. The growth comes as the company prepares to use its mRNA technology for vaccines and drugs against other diseases such as flu. Trials attempting to tackle multiple strains of influenza in one shot are expected to read out in the coming months.
Still, the sudden growth of Moderna from a small biotech to a global drugmaker has seen it struggle to keep up with demand for its vaccine. The shares plummeted this month after the company announced it would be able to supply only 700 million to 800 million vaccine doses this year, down from its previous projection of 800 million to 1 billion doses. The delays were attributed to filling vials and delivering them in international markets.
The new recruits should help the company with its distribution in Europe and beyond as its scales-up production of the shot and develops more drugs. Moderna didn’t have a single employee in Europe on its commercial team before the pandemic. The company expects to sell $15 billion to $18 billion worth of its shot this year, with higher revenues next year, making it one of the best-selling pharmaceutical products in the world.
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