18 May 2020 22:31
Global stocks pushed higher this afternoon after US biotech firm Moderna reported positive results from an early-stage human trial of its Covid-19 vaccine. The company's vaccine, known as mRNA-1273, produced levels of virus-neutralising antibodies similar to those found in blood samples of recovered patients. Read more: Oxford University coronavirus vaccine trial strikes AstraZeneca distribution deal As part of the study, all 45 participants were given three different doses of the vaccine. The company reported a dose-dependent increase in immunogenicity — the ability to provoke an immune response in the body. Moderna said the vaccine was "generally safe and well-tolerated" by patients in the early study.
Shares in Moderna jumped 20 per cent following the announcement, helping to push the Nasdaq up 2.7 per cent. There are currently no approved vaccines or treatments for Covid-19, with development of a safe vaccine expected to take between 12 and 18 months. Moderna said it expects to begin larger late-scale trials in July. "We are investing to scale up manufacturing so we can maximize the number of doses we can produce to help protect as many people as we can from SARS-CoV-2," said chief executive Stephane Bancel. Read more: Moderna and Lonza strike deal to produce possible Covid-19 vaccine The company has already signed deals with Swiss contract drugmaker Lonza Group and the US government to produce mass quantities of its vaccine.
Data on a second dose was not available for the 250 microgram group, the company said. The vaccine also produced neutralizing antibodies against Covid-19 in at least eight participants, the company said. Experts have said neutralizing antibodies appear to be important in acquiring protection. Levels of neutralizing antibodies were at or above levels seen in blood samples, the company said. Data on neutralizing antibodies for the other participants were not yet available, Moderna said.
Although the trial is very preliminary, signs that a vaccine may work boosted stocks markets. Moderna shares rose 22% on the update. Moderna Inc. got a new Wall Street-high price target from Goldman Sachs as its shares traded at a record after the biotech company revealed positive early results from its experimental vaccine for Covid-19. An initial look at mRNA-1273, as the inoculation is known, "hits the mark," analyst Salveen Richter said, raising her price target to $105 from $63, or 27% above the prior Street high of $83. Piper Sandler analysts soon followed raising their price target to $102 from $57 saying Moderna could have "potential blockbuster vaccine sales next year." Moderna CEO Stephane Bance says its coronavirus experimental vaccine shows great promise. The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index rose as much as 2.8% and is on track to close at a record high after Moderna's test results. Moderna shares rose as much as 30%. The entire U.S. stock market rose as the first look at a potential vaccine for the disease responsible for the pandemic kindles hope for an end to the shutdowns hobbling economic growth across the globe. Investors are excited "the vaccine was able to elicit an antibody response at just two weeks post-dose," Richter wrote in a client note. She was also positive on the activity seen in lower doses, which should bode well for Moderna's ability to extend its capacity to provide more vaccine. Moderna is now seen having a 75% chance of success, whereas Goldman had previously modeled 70% odds. Goldman was the lead manager on Moderna's most recent stock offering in mid-February, which raised cash at $19 a share. Only one of 12 analysts tracked by Bloomberg rates Moderna a hold, while the rest rate it the equivalent of a buy. Piper Sandler's Edward Tenthoff said mRNA-1273 could be a $10 billion a year drug if approved. Former GlaxoSmithKline Plc executive Moncef Slaoui, who is set to become the chief scientist for Operation Warp Speed and is on Moderna's board, has said that getting a vaccine by January is a "credible objective." (Updates to add Piper Sandler price target raise)