UPDATE 2-S.Korea in talks with Moderna over $200 mln investment to build vaccine factory
By Sangmi Cha
SEOUL, Feb 5 (Reuters) - South Korea and COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna Inc MRNA.O are in discussions over a $200 million investment by the U.S. drugmaker to build a vaccine manufacturing factory in the country, a former government minister who was involved in the talks said.
Park Young-sun, who stepped down last month as minister for SMEs and Startups to run for Seoul mayor, made the comments in an interview with the Asia Business Daily. She also said Moderna was highly interested in the Asian market, according to the report.
Her campaign official confirmed the report to Reuters. Moderna did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"Moderna has expressed its interest to invest $200 million ... and I'll continue to participate in the discussion for a while, as I had held talks with them as a minister," Park, was quoted as saying.
The campaign official also told Reuters the factory will likely be built in the capital Seoul.
It has yet to be decided when and by how much the plant will be able to produce vaccines, the official said.
The discussion comes as Moderna has raised its 2021 production target to at least 600 million doses and continues to invest and add staff to deliver up to 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines this year. nL4N2JF30F
With few of its own factories, U.S.-based Moderna is reliant on partners such as Swiss contract drug manufacturer Lonza LONN.S and Laboratorios Farmaceuticos ROVI ROVI.MC in Spain.
It inked a contract with Sweden's Recipharm RECIb.ST in December for production at a site in France to boost capacity for deliveries outside the United States.
Moderna and other vaccine makers have delayed shipments to several countries in recent weeks, as they adjust short-term production schedules to boost output.
Park had her last video conference with Moderna on the day she left the office and the two sides were scheduled to hold a meeting next week, she said.
The report follows a deal announced by South Korea in December to purchase 40 million doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine after President Moon Jae-in held an online meeting with the U.S. firm's CEO Stephane Bancel. nL4N2JB1TV
(Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa, Miyoung Kim and Raju Gopalakrishnan)