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Lonza ramps up to make the Moderna COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine

Lonza is expected to make 100 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at it's U.S. plant in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Lonza Biologics is bulking up its workforce and production capacity inside its massive plant at the Pease International Trade Port as they prepare to launch production of the Moderna COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine.

The Swiss drugmaker is scaling up to produce four hundred million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Those batches will roll off four production lines located in Seacoast New Hampshire and deep in the Swiss Alps.

Mark Caswell is the Director of Engineering and Facilities for Lonza. He says doses will be made here first.

'Each of the lines we are developing is capable of doing 100 million doses per year, so in Portsmouth, we have one production line here delivering that,' Caswell said.

Preliminary phase 3 trials, involving 30-thousand participants, showed Moderna's candidate is nearly 95 percent effective against the virus. The company’s CEO Stephane Bancel called the results a 'game-changer'.

'We think this vaccine can have a serious impact on the pandemic,' Bancel said. The Cambridge, Massachusetts based company was the first in the US to conduct human trials, developed the vaccine with funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Moderna is now on track to make 500 million to 1 billion doses annually by 2021. Tens of millions from its Portsmouth plant will be earmarked for the U.S.

'It's going extremely well, we are able to accelerate some of the timelines, working with parts of government, Operation Warp Speed.

'We anticipate to be able to ship 20 of those 100 million doses by the end of the year,' Caswell said.

Vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer both require two doses and utilize new technology called Messenger RNA.

Each vaccine will deliver a synthetic piece of genetic material from the actual virus that triggers the body's immune system to fight the virus.

'The exciting thing about this technology is often times it's not just a treatment it is a cure,' Caswell said.

As cases continue to rise at home and worldwide, a potential shot of immunity for hundreds of millions couldn't come soon enough.

'Getting to the point that we can meet that demand is critical for everyone,' Caswell said.