Moderna extends lipids deal to boost COVID-19 vaccine output

The expanded agreement will be effective immediately to help meet Moderna’s increasing demand over the coming months. (File/AFP)
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Updated 28 May 2020

Moderna extends lipids deal to boost COVID-19 vaccine output

  • The expanded agreement will be effective immediately
  • Moderna said the vaccine candidate produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers

Moderna Inc. has extended a deal to secure large volumes of the lipids used to produce its experimental COVID-19 vaccine in a bid to meet increasing demand for the medicine, the US biotech company said on Thursday.
Moderna said last week that the vaccine candidate, the first to be tested in the United States, produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers, offering a glimmer of hope for a vaccine among the most advanced in development.
The expanded agreement with pharmaceutical ingredient supplier CordenPharma will be effective immediately to help meet its increasing demand over the coming months, Moderna said in a statement.
“This expansion will increase supply of lipid excipients used to manufacture our mRNA products,” Moderna’s chief technical operations and quality officer, Juan Andres, said.
Moderna plans to supply millions of doses per month in 2020 and tens of millions a month in 2021 if the vaccine proves successful.
There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, and experts predict a safe and effective vaccine could take 12 to 18 months from the start of development, which in Moderna’s case was in January.


US accuses Hezbollah of storing explosive chemical in Europe

Updated 18 September 2020

US accuses Hezbollah of storing explosive chemical in Europe

  • Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound commonly used as a fertilizer, but it can be used to make explosives
  • It can also be dangerous in storage, as demonstrated by the huge explosion last month in Beirut

WASHINGTON: Militant group Hezbollah has stored chemicals that can be used to make explosives in several European countries, a senior State Department official said Thursday as he appealed to countries in Europe and elsewhere to impose bans on the organization.
Hezbollah operatives have moved ammonium nitrate from Belgium to France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Switzerland in recent years and are suspected to still be storing the material throughout Europe, said Nathan Sales, the State Department coordinator for counter-terrorism.
Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound commonly used as a fertilizer, but it can be used to make explosives. It can also be dangerous in storage, as demonstrated by the huge explosion last month in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.
Sales, without offering evidence, said the U.S. believes that Iran-backed Hezbollah has since 2012 transported ammonium nitrate around Europe in first aid kits with cold packs that contain the compound. The United States believes these supplies are still in place throughout Europe, possibly in Greece, Italy and Spain.
“Why would Hezbollah stockpile ammonium nitrate on European soil?" he said. “The answer is clear: Hezbollah put these weapons in place so it could conduct major terrorist attacks whenever it or its masters in Tehran deemed necessary."
Sales made the remarks in an online forum hosted by the American Jewish Committee, which has called upon more countries to ban Hezbollah and its operations.
The US has designated Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization since 1997, but some countries distinguish between the organization's military wing and the political wing.
The EU lists Iran-backed Hezbollah’s military wing as a banned terrorist group, but not its political wing, which has been part of Lebanese governments in recent years. Some individual countries, including Germany and the UK, have outlawed the group in its entirety. Sales called on more countries to do the same.
Hezbollah is a “unitary organization that cannot be subdivided into a military and so-called political wing," he said. Without a full ban, the group can still raise money and recruit operatives. “Hezbollah is one organization," he said. "It is a terrorist organization.”