Laval’s Cité de la biotech chosen by Moderna for new vaccine facility

City anticipates new film studio in Saint-François as next big development project

Global pharmaceutical giant Moderna, which was a key player in the production of Covid vaccines over the past two years, says it has chosen Laval as the location for its new Montreal-area mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility.

Moderna’s new facility will be located in an area of the Cité de la BioTech where the INRS has agreed to sell some of its land.

In a statement Moderna issued, the company said it signed a purchase agreement on Aug. 6 with the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) for land in the Cité de la biotech, Laval’s biotechnology park, to serve as the site of Moderna’s new biomanufacturing facility.

“This location offers tremendous synergies to Moderna due to its proximity to a renowned research institution, in addition to fitting the requirements of the project and its importance to all Canadians and Quebecers,” said the company.

“We are pleased to have found the ideal site for the expected construction of our mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility.”

Moderna said construction is slated to begin in 2022, with the facility becoming operational by the end of 2024, subject to planning and regulatory approvals.

There was no mention of the number of jobs expected to be generated by the new facility.

“We look forward to working with the City of Laval as our newest partner in the expected implementation of this project and to sharing further details once due diligence is completed,” said the company.

Laval mayor Stéphane Boyer issued the following statement following the announcement.

“Last year, I had the privilege to be able to announce the enlargement of our Cité de la biotech so that Laval could be a significant participant in the future of public health in Canada,” said Boyer.

“It’s certain the addition of a major player such as Moderna to our project is a true privilege. We welcome them today with enthusiasm and we will be following this dossier very closely.”

This upbeat news for Laval municipal officials comes following a much more negative announcement in June, when Sanofi Canada said it would be shutting its operations in Laval by the end of 2022 and moving to Ontario. Eighty-five Sanofi employees were impacted.

A newcomer to pharma

As large pharmaceutical companies go, Moderna is a relative newcomer. While the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies (Roche, Merck, Novartis, Abbott) were founded or can trace their roots to the mid and late 19th century, Moderna was founded just 11 years ago, and to this day the company’s only commercial product is the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

‘Laval could be a significant participant in the future of public health in Canada,’ says Mayor Stéphane Boyer

All the same, according to the company’s 2021 annual report, Moderna currently has 44 treatment and vaccine candidates – including vaccines for influenza, HIV and two vaccines for cancer – of which 21 have entered the clinical trial stage.

Cité du Cinéma

In an interview last weekend with the Laval News, Mayor Boyer was asked whether the city’s economic development department is currently in talks with any other major corporate players who might be interested in setting up operations in Laval just as Moderna did.

“We are in discussions with several large businesses, because, yes, the economy here is doing well,” he replied. “On Moderna, of course, we are very pleased to have been able to attract them here.”

According to Boyer, the next major comparably large business venture Laval is currently monitoring for possible development would be a TV and film studio complex that former Mel’s Cité du Cinéma CEO Michel Trudel has said he wants to build on Marcel Villeneuve Ave. in the district of Saint-François.

Zoning change needed

During a special sitting of Laval city council in July, the majority of councillors voted in favour of selling two tracts of land owned by the city to Trudel for $32.1 million for the purposes of developing his project. Closing the sale is contingent upon council also agreeing to change the current residential zoning applying to 60 per cent of the land to industrial use.

“If the zoning change is accepted by the residents, then an infrastructure for making films of international scope will be created on the site,” Boyer continued. “What they’re talking about is several sound stages, with a training school. This will create a whole new industry in Laval.”