On November 16, the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal hosted a talk with Patricia Gauthier, President and General Manager of Moderna Canada.
Patricia Gauthier looked back at what she accomplished up to this point as the person responsible for bringing Moderna to Canada. In a short amount of time, the company went from being relatively unknown to Canadians to one that has big plans for Canada.
A key player in the fight against the pandemic
Before it started its research into a COVID-19 vaccine, at the height of the pandemic, few people knew about Moderna. Patricia Gauthier recalled in her opening remarks that Moderna was at its heart a research and development company, and the first to develop a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine:
“We were a research and development company through and through. We needed to make major investments in our production chain, since we could not produce vaccines at a planetary scale with the infrastructure we had.”
– Patricia Gauthier, President and General Manager of Moderna Canada.
In the middle of the pandemic, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company needed to alter its priorities and prepare for major changes to its available resources:
“We went from a company with 1,000 employees in 2020 to now more than 4,000 employees with 48 research programs, including 45 clinical trials, on rare disease, oncology and more.”
Big plans for Canada
After stating in 2021 their intent to begin operating in Canada, on April 30, 2022, the CEO of Moderna, Stéphane Bancel, along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier François Legault announced that a vaccine production facility would open in Greater Montréal:
“We were the first Moderna-affiliated company outside of Boston. As a Canadian, I have been proud to see the excitement that our provinces have had for a Moderna factory within Canada; seven have shown their interest.”
According to Patricia Gauthier, Quebec would gain much from welcoming this facility:
“The life science ecosystem in Greater Montréal is unmatched. There is an existing mRNA vaccine talent pool and we already do research and development with various CROs and institutions such as McGill and the INRS.”
A national and international player
Despite the Canadian facility being located in Quebec, Moderna plans to make this facility a focal point for Canada as a whole and elsewhere in the world:
“We will need to invest heavily to develop a 401 corridor and Canada’s expertise. We already have great of examples of collaborative work in Quebec, including with McGill, the University of Montréal, the University of Laval and the University of Sherbrooke. And then, we will be able to compete with other international players.”
Patricia Gauthier nevertheless aimed to reassure the audience by reminding them of the factory’s main mission:
“We are developing medication to fight rare diseases and the involved research centres will be working to bring that medication to the world. But serving Canadians will always be the priority.”