Moderna is a step closer to showing detractors that it is no moonshot stock. The biotech group on Monday said its experimental Covid-19 vaccine was 94.5 per cent effective, according to preliminary data. That makes it the second US company, after Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, to report positive results from late-stage clinical trials.
This is great news for public health. Light is glimmering at the end of the lockdown tunnel following months of grim pandemic headlines.
The preliminary data also brings vindication for one of the sector's most divisive companies. Established in 2010, Moderna has never brought a product to market. Yet that did not stop the group from raising US$604.3 million ($875m) at a US$7.5 billion valuation in a record-setting IPO back in December 2018.
The stock spent much of 2019 trading below its opening price. Short interest piled up. But the coronavirus pandemic has put Moderna's work on messenger RNA back into focus. Here, the human body may be prompted to make its own medicine. Including Monday's 8 per cent rise, the stock has risen 390 per cent this year, according to Refinitiv. Its market worth now tops US$38b.
Rightly so. The trial results, if they hold up, would make the vaccine as effective as that for childhood diseases such as measles. The Covid-19 jab may represent proof of concept for other Moderna treatments. These includes a personalised cancer vaccine.
Details from the coronavirus vaccine test foster new optimism about the whole sector. The shot appears to work well for different subgroups such as the elderly. It can be refrigerated at between 2C and 8C for 30 days. By contrast, the vaccine developed by BioNTech-Pfizer must normally be stored at minus 75C and can be kept at fridge temperatures for only five days.
Neither jab may be widely available for months. Moderna and BioNTech-Pfizer have not indicated how long protection lasts. But every additional vaccine that works reduces the total execution risk of mass immunisation. In medicine, as in boxing, a flurry of jabs may precede a knockout.
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