April 17, 2020

Covid Report: Moderna Rockets On Vaccine Funding; Leaked Report Prods Gilead


Shares of MRNA stock rocketed Friday after the biotech said it will receive up to $483 million in federal funding for its coronavirus vaccine.

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA — under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — will fund the development of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine, Moderna said late Thursday.

Moderna’s drug was the first experimental coronavirus vaccine to begin clinical testing. The Phase 1 study has finished enrolling 45 volunteers ages 18-55. The National Institutes of Health, which is running the test, is now enrolling older volunteers into the study.

On the stock market today, MRNA stock popped 15.4%, to 46.85.

MRNA Stock Pops On Coronavirus Vaccine News

The efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine have had a volatile effect on MRNA stock. But the news this week sent MRNA stock to a record high. Shares broke out of a consolidation with a buy point at 36.10 on Wednesday.

In Phase 1 testing, researchers will study three varying doses of the coronavirus vaccine. If the medicine proves to be safe, Moderna plans to begin a Phase 2 study in the second quarter. A Phase 3 study could begin as soon as this fall, the biotech said in a news release.

BARDA funding will support the late-stage development as well as scaling up the coronavirus vaccine in 2020. Moderna also plans to hire 150 new workers in the U.S. this year to expand its manufacturing capabilities.

Moderna expects to supply millions of doses per month in 2020 and tens of millions of doses each month in 2021.

Rapid Pace Of Development

The biotech advanced its coronavirus vaccine at a record pace. Chinese scientists posted the virus’s genetic code online in January. From there, it took Moderna 63 days to manufacture a candidate vaccine and then dose the first volunteer in its Phase 1 study.

Moderna Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel says viruses are like software. Once Moderna had the genetic sequence of the new coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2, all its researchers had to do was plug that code into their system.

Notably, Moderna has its own manufacturing plant which helped speed the process.

It’s also important to remember that Moderna had already proven the safety of its vaccine method in earlier-stage testing for other viruses, he told Investor’s Business Daily. So, if the virus mutates, Bancel says he’s confident Moderna could pivot quickly to create a new vaccine.

Currently, experts aren’t sure how long a coronavirus vaccine could last. So, after the first wave of inoculations, it’s possible people could need future vaccinations, Bancel said.

“It might be five to 10 years for a healthy adult,” he said. “But you could also imagine a world in which every year or two you need to get a boost.”

Coronavirus Treatment News Prods Gilead

Meanwhile, shares of Gilead Sciences (GILD) continued a bullish gain that began late Thursday after a Stat News report leaked early results from its remdesivir study in the U.S. In intraday action, Gilead stock charged ahead 9.7%, to 83.99.

The report cited a University of Chicago researcher who said the majority of 125 patients in a clinical study of remdesivir were discharged after receiving daily infusions. Researchers are testing remdesivir as a coronavirus treatment.

Unlike a coronavirus vaccine, a treatment would help patients already ill with Covid-19.

Analysts were quick to note the study didn’t pit the potential coronavirus treatment against a second drug.

“We could remain cautiously optimistic on remdesivir,” Evercore ISI analyst Umer Raffat said in a report. “Remdesivir is not a silver bullet. Remdesivir is also not a zero.”

Gilead Cautions Against ‘Anecdotal Data’

Gilead also cautioned against drawing conclusions from anecdotal data, in an emailed statement to Investor’s Business Daily. The biotech said it’s testing its experimental coronavirus treatment in two studies. A study in severe patients is expected to have results this month. A test in moderate patients could have results in May.

“The totality of the data need to be analyzed in order to draw any conclusions from the trial,” Gilead said. “Anecdotal reports, while encouraging, do not provide the statistical power necessary to determine the safety and (effectiveness) profile of remdesivir as a treatment for Covid-19.”

Still, the need for a coronavirus treatment is increasing. As of Friday morning, there were more than 2.2 million cases of Covid-19 worldwide. That includes nearly 149,000 deaths, though it’s also key to note more than 558,000 people have recovered.


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