Moderna, Switzerland's Lonza strike deal on potential COVID-19 vaccine

May 1 (Reuters) - Moderna Inc and Swiss contract drugmaker Lonza Group AG said on Friday they would accelerate the manufacturing of the U.S. drug developer's potential coronavirus vaccine.

The announcement comes at a time when drugmakers are pausing clinical trials for other disease areas as they focus on testing potential treatments for the coronavirus.

The experimental vaccine, mRNA-1273, is being tested in early-stage trial by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, with Moderna expecting to begin mid-stage trial in the second quarter.

Under the 10-year collaboration agreement, the companies aim to manufacture up to a billion doses per year as technology transfer is expected to begin in June, and the first batches of the vaccine are expected to be manufactured in Lonza U.S. in July.

"Over time, the parties intend to establish additional production suites across Lonza's worldwide facilities, ultimately allowing for the manufacture of material equivalent to up to 1 billion doses of mRNA-1273 per year for use worldwide", the statement added.

The disease, which infected more than 3.2 million people worldwide and killed around 232,000, set off a race among drugmakers to find an antidote.

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Earlier this month, Moderna got a $483 million funding from a U.S. government agency to accelerate its COVID-19 vaccine development.

Separately, Basel-based Lonza's pharmaceuticals, biotech and nutrition business has received more than 40 enquiries regarding projects relating to COVID-19, the company said earlier in April.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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