The United States and China may be walking on eggshells with each other, but this has not stopped pharmaceutical giant Moderna from coming to an agreement with the Chinese government with regard to the development and production of messenger RNA (mRNA) medical products.

As of Wednesday, July 5th, the Massachusetts-based company formalized a memorandum of understanding as well as a land collaboration deal with the relevant officials of the Chinese government to develop and manufacture mRNA medications exclusively for domestic use.

While some news sources claim that Moderna’s initial investment into its Chinese facility will amount to $1 billion and that its CEO Stephane Bancel is slated to meet with officials in Shanghai, official representatives have not confirmed Bancel’s arrival, let alone the total amount of the company’s investment.

However, Moderna officials did confirm that the said agreements are meant to improve health security in the country by meeting specific needs in the public health sector and add to the the number of viable treatment options available to Chinese patients. 

This is the first agreement Moderna has with China despite having several existing contracts to export COVID vaccines to Australia, Canada, Japan, and Kenya, or to produce similar medications locally. Likewise, this is also the first contract that involves the development of mRNA medications apart from COVID vaccines and retrovirals.

Necessary “Evil”

Throughout the pandemic, China shut out Moderna and other leading foreign pharmaceutical manufacturers from making a foray into the domestic market, opting instead to rely on locally produced vaccines.

However, it has been proven that Sinovac and Sinopharm, China’s entries into the vaccine field, are not as effective as those produced by the likes of Moderna and Pfizer. 

Also, the country’s molecular scientists have rarely been successful when it comes to developing mRNA technology for domestic use. It actually took more than three years before China signed off on its first locally-produced mRNA vaccine.