Moderna To Develop mRNA Vaccines in China

(Photo credit: CDC/Unsplash)

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The US and China may be taking jabs at one another over trade and other stuff, but that isn’t stopping Beijing from inviting an American company to produce a new jab for the nation of 1.4 billion.

Moderna announced Wednesday it’s struck a deal with Chinese officials to let it develop messenger RNA (mRNA) drugs in the country. It’s a win that could pave the way for more Western vaccine producers looking to break into China.

Shoot The Messenger (Into Your Arm)

The utility of mRNA vaccines became obvious over the course of the covid pandemic. Instead of the traditional method of introducing a dead or weakened version of the virus they’re defending against, mRNA vaccines essentially carry instructions that tell your cells how to build the little spikes you can see on microscopic images of the coronavirus. Nifty, we know.

Moderna and Pfizer both developed mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, but these were not administered in China. The two most common vaccines given out in China were called CoronaVac and Sinopharm, which were developed more traditionally and were less effective.

China is currently experiencing something of a COVID-19 wave, but it’s not inducing the same levels of panic as during the months of zero-COVID policies. And Although China has opened its doors to Moderna, there are some conditions:

  • The drugs that Moderna develops won’t be for export and will be available only in China. Given the size of that market, however, we’re guessing Moderna’s good with that.
  • Local Chinese outlet Yicai reported Tuesday that Moderna is looking to invest $1 billion in China, and it’s almost certainly not going in alone. China’s Ministry of Commerce also announced it’s been holding meetings with a number of Western drugmakers including COVID starlets Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

Obviously: The ministry also said it had met with Novo Nordisk, the company behind Ozempic, the diabetes-treatment-turned-weight-loss-miracle-drug. If there’s one thing that can duck and weave through US-China geopolitical tensions, it’s the promise of getting thinner.