“There are regular discussions at the highest level of the state, including a few days ago. I know that there is a strong desire from the President of the Republic”, says the fifty-year-old. “As always, we have to agree (…), we are not there yet, but I think we are making progress. We continue to talk: it’s a good sign” , he smiles.

It would be a homecoming for the biotech boss, a native of Marseilles who emigrated to the United States years ago, after a stint with the French diagnostics giant BioMérieux, in Lyon.

The subject of an establishment in France is not insignificant. France did not, despite its scientific history, develop a vaccine against Covid-19 before June 2022, when the biotech Valneva obtained the green light from the European Union. The serum of the French giant Sanofi, did not obtain European authorization until Thursday, almost two years after those of Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech tandem.

Beyond the particular case of France, the CEO of Moderna considers it essential to build factories in several regions of the world. He has just laid the first stone of a production site in Canada. Others will emerge in Australia, England and Kenya.

Because the pandemic has brought to the fore the questions of unequal access to vaccines and treatments, the rich countries being the first served.

Faced with this, Moderna has pledged not to oppose its patents during the pandemic. However, the company recently launched a lawsuit against Pfizer-BioNTech for infringement of its patents.

While he concedes that some great scientists in the history of medicine have refused to file patents, “these were researchers who came from the academic world. This is not possible for a private company. Moderna has had to raise three billion dollars in funds to create the platform that was ready when the virus arrived,” he said.

– The turning point of cancer –

The trained engineer believes that vaccine inequality has other origins than patents, the desire of the great powers to keep vaccines.

“The Biden administration banned us from exporting our vaccines during the first part of 2021, including to Canada.” Therefore, “we want to have sites in several regions of the world, so as not to repeat what happened during the pandemic, because I am convinced that we will have other pandemics”.

With its factory in Kenya, Moderna says it wants to offer vaccines at cost price, but also molecules adapted to the enormous needs of the African continent. “There are dozens of respiratory viruses, tropical viruses, which none of the big pharma companies deal with,” explains Stéphane Bancel: “I think the industry has looked the other way for years to purely economic reasons.

Today, the biotech with 4,000 employees has almost 50 programs in development, and has a cash position of 17 billion dollars.

The expected drop in sales of vaccines against the Covid therefore does not prevent his boss from sleeping, he assures. Especially since he has launched an assault on another mountain, the fight against cancer thanks to messenger RNA, in immuno-oncology.

Moderna is notably carrying out a clinical trial with the American MSD against skin cancer. Treating cancers with RNA “would be an extraordinary leap”, hopes the scientist. First results are expected by the end of the year.