New vaccine factory in Montreal | Moderna wants to create a whole economic “ecosystem”

Job creation, increase in median salary, ’emotion’ for research: Moderna’s new Montreal plant will have a ‘very positive’ effect on the economy here, predicts the president of the American pharmaceutical company.

Posted at 7:00 am

Henri Ouellette-Vezina

Henri Ouellette-Vezina
The press

“We’re going to have a very positive effect on Montreal’s economy, I think. The salary level in the profession will be high. We are talking about people with considerable scientific and technical knowledge. But there will also be all the transactions that will be created indirectly, “says Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, in an interview with The press

He states that the economic “ecosystem” he wants to create around the factory will encompass “a whole network of crafts”, from the pastry chef to the restaurateur, through local shops. “The most important thing for us is to help the economy here,” he emphasizes.

Wednesday, The press revealed that Montreal had beaten Toronto to host this pharmaceutical giant’s RNA vaccine manufacturing plant. We don’t yet know the exact location of the factory, but several ‘strategic sectors’ of the island have already been defined, says the main stakeholder. An announcement should follow soon. And Moderna plans to start construction next summer.

“We want a factory quickly, so we absolutely have to start with the foundations and all before the ground gets too hard for the winter,” said Mr Bancel, who estimates construction will take “two to three years.”

This type of factory is “very complex” to set up, he recalls. “We’re making products that are injected into humans, so there are very important health rules to follow. And we’re really going to start the site from scratch, so we have to build everything and validate everything.”

For every machine, every computer system, every software, we have to prove to Health Canada that everything works exactly as expected. There is a very high quality requirement that takes time, apart from construction. And of course, training staff also takes time.

Stephane Bancel, CEO of Moderna

He is not planning a new factory in Canada for the time being, but is not closing the door. “We will see the demand in the future. If there is a need, we will always be open to make another factory, but right now the goal is to make it work. †

First an economic advantage

The Prime Minister of Quebec, François Legault, also stated at a press conference on Friday that the advantage of the arrival of an actor like Moderna in Montreal was mainly economic. “If we want to continue to narrow the wealth gap with our neighbors, we need to increase the average wage. And there we will have paid jobs,” he said.

He hopes to see Quebec culture ‘change’ in the way universities collaborate with business. “Collaborating with companies does not deprive universities of anything. On the contrary, it allows us to do more,” he argued. He said he wanted to multiply the “innovation zones” in the province that do “applied and commercialized” research.


Justin Trudeau and Francois Legault

“The arrival of Moderna will create hundreds of good jobs and allow us to continue nurturing talent here in science,” Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also welcomed, confirming that the plant would have a production capacity of 100 million doses. per year, for both COVID-19 and flu vaccines. His administration also plans to “create an environment where research and production are buzzing”.

In total, the factory will cost 180 million, according to François Legault. Ottawa, for its part, will inject an additional budget to buy vaccines from the new plant.

“We’re going to invent the future of vaccines here at home,” said François-Philippe Champagne, Minister for Innovation, Science and Industry, of a major step for Canada’s research ecosystem. “It’s an ordination”, finally rejoiced the Quebec Minister of Health, Christian Dubé, according to whom the entire health network will benefit from this new factory.

Behind the scenes, it is a reminder that this plant represents a decisive step in the Trudeau administration’s efforts to rebuild the country’s bioproduction and life sciences sector. The plant will make it possible to consolidate the ecosystem of the pharmaceutical industry in the Montreal region, for example to prepare for other “possible pandemics”.

Moderna is one of the two major makers of messenger RNA COVID-19 vaccines in the world – the other being Pfizer-BioNTech. The vaccines produced by these two companies have been used by many countries to vaccinate their populations, including Canada and the United States.

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