Laval is hoping Moderna will build a facility at Cité de la Biotech

U.S.-based vaccine maker has benefited hugely from the COVID-19 pandemic

With one of its most prized pieces of industrial parkland primed and ready to welcome major players from the domain of scientific technology and research, the City of Laval is making no secret of the fact it is inviting one of the world’s largest Covid vaccine manufacturers to set up operations in the Cité de la Biotech.

In a statement issued by Mayor Marc Demers’ office last week, the administration calls on Moderna to choose Laval and the Cité de la Biotech for an expansion the multinational company says it wants to make somewhere in Canada.

“As a leader in the domain of biotechnologies, Laval’s economic community quickly contacted management at the company in order to let them know all the facts about the Cité de la Biotech, the qualified workforce and the strength of the economy in Laval,” the mayor’s office said in its statement.

Laval’s the place, says Boyer

Deputy Mayor Stéphane Boyer was more direct. “Laval has everything it takes to accommodate such an investment,” he said, maintaining that the city has a base of highly qualified workers, an already-established international clientele at Cité de la Biotech, high-quality available industrial space, and a diversified economy guaranteeing stability during potentially turbulent times.

Caroline De Guire, president and CEO of the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Laval (CCILaval), is also sold on the idea that Laval has what it takes to welcome virtually any company that might wish to set up operations in Laval – including Moderna.

“Bolstered by around 12,000 enterprises, retailers and industries, the Laval business community has all the requirements in terms of diversity in its qualified workforce, as well as complementarity in its economic sectors and projects for sustainable mobility,” De Guire said.

Laval is courting Moderna

The CCIL says that key sectors of the city’s industrial parklands, such as the Cité de la Biotech, will have a key role to play in the process for jump-starting the economy once the post-Covid recovery gets underway.

“Laval places a high value on the research and innovation taking place in this sector and has a highly resilient, inclusive and dynamic business community, conferring on the city a very attractive and competitive cachet,” added De Guire. “We would be honoured to welcome Moderna into our business community and contribute to its arrival in Quebec.”

“With the arrival of Moderna in the Cité de la Biotech in Laval, the company would be able to rely on a logistical chain specialized in life-sciences as well as expertise in infectious diseases and bio-manufacturing with the presence of the INRS biotechnology campus of the Armand Frappier Institute,” said Perry Niro, executive-director of the Centre québécois d’innovation en biotechnologie (CQIB).

Moderna’s fast rise

“Moderna will also be able to count on innovations from a new generation of entrepreneurs supported by our incubator,” he added, referring to the CQIB, which leases out research and development facilities, while helping guide the way towards subsidized support for entrepreneurs launching startup biotech ventures.

Headquartered in Cambridge Mass. USA, Moderna was regarded in recent years as little more than a biotech startup. That is until the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020. Monderna has come a long way in a short time, compared to other global pharma and biotech companies whose fortunes have also been buoyed by the pandemic.

Seen here from an eagle’s-eye point of view, the City of Laval’s Cité de la Biotech is home to more than a dozen science and research companies doing active work towards finding treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19.

But while other companies involved in the development of Covid vaccines (Pfizer, Astra-Zeneca) have at least some history behind them and a degree of diversification, Moderna was founded just 11 years ago and focuses exclusively on producing vaccines based on a proprietary messenger RNA (mRNA) process.

Future in Canada

As well, Moderna’s only commercially-successful product to date has been its COVID-19 vaccine, although it is said to have as many as two dozen vaccine candidates for other health issues including influenza and AIDS.

In terms of its Canadian expansion plans, the company announced on Aug. 10 that it has signed a non-binding pre-contract memorandum of understanding with the federal government to build a state-of-the-art mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility in Canada.

This understanding with the federal government would presumably be a precursor for Ottawa to eventually provide significant subsidies to Moderna as an incentive for its establishing a production facility on Canadian soil.

Although details are scant, the idea is that Moderna Canada would use a Canadian site to supply this country with direct access to rapid pandemic response capabilities, including the company’s current version of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, according to a statement issued by Moderna.