Case Study

Lonza’s mission impossible: Supplying the world with mRNA vaccines

18 pages
June 2023
Reference: IMD-7-2429

At the beginning of 2020, a few weeks before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, André Goerke, the Head of Value Chain Management at Lonza – a leading pharmaceutical contract development and manufacturing company based in Switzerland – had just completed the merger of two global business units into a new biotech business unit of the company. After returning from a wonderful day of snowboarding, André received a phone call from his friend Juan Andres that would change his professional focus for the next two years. Juan had become the Head of Technical Operations at the US biotech start-up Moderna – which was working on various early-stage drugs using the novel mRNA technology. The world had been watching with sorrow as cases of COVID-19 appeared in Europe, and stock markets across the globe were in free fall. After learning of these mounting concerns about a pandemic, Moderna had immediately started sequencing the COVID-19 virus. It was convinced that it had an effective and safe mRNA sequence that could serve as a vaccine against the virus. But it had not been able to manufacture anywhere near the volume necessary to fight a global pandemic. Hence, Juan asked André if Lonza could set up a global supply chain and be Moderna’s active ingredient partner to manufacture hundreds of millions of mRNA vaccine doses a year. André sensed that this was an incredible opportunity, but there were several risks involved, including counterparty, technology, legal, regulatory, supply chain and HR risks. From multiple angles, this looked like a mission impossible for Lonza, especially since manufacturing was expected to start by the end of 2020.

Learning Objective
  • How to make far-reaching strategic decisions with imperfect information at hand.
  • Lessons on organizational design, customer centricity and the adaptive strategy approach.
  • The importance of leadership with purpose and corporate culture in steering companies through phases of disruptive transformation.
Disruption, Global Business, COVID-19, Vaccine, Healthcare
Lonza Group, Manufacturing, Biotechnology, Healthcare, Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals
Field Research
© 2023
Available Languages
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