MRNA Stock Price Increased 4%: Why It Happened

By Amit Chowdhry ● Jan 11, 2021
  • The stock price of Moderna Inc (NASDAQ: MRNA) increased by 4% as it went from a previous close of $112.75 to $117.26. This is why it happened.

The stock price of drug discovery and development company Moderna Inc (NASDAQ: MRNA) increased by 4% as it went from a previous close of $112.75 to $117.26. One of the triggers for the stock price increase has to do with Moderna announcing 3 new development programs in infectious disease vaccines.

The new development programs include a seasonal flu vaccine program for covering 4 seasonal viruses recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), HIV vaccine programs to accelerate human validation of novel vaccination strategies, and a Nipah vaccine program established against a virus of public health concern.

Flu vaccine (mRNA-1010, mRNA-1020, mRNA-1030): Seasonal flu (type A and type B) epidemics occurs seasonally and vary in severity each year, causing respiratory illnesses and placing substantial burden on healthcare systems. The WHO estimates globally about 3 million to 5 million severe cases of flu each year and 290,000-650,000 flu-related respiratory deaths. About 8% of the U.S. population experiences symptoms from flu each year in the US with 140,000-810,000 hospitalizations and 12,000-61,000 deaths per year. Peak flu activity is seen in temperate climates from fall to winter and is reflected in increases in outpatient visits, urgent care visits, and hospitalizations. In the U.S., the estimated average economic burden of flu is about $11 billion per year. And the company plans to explore potential combination vaccines against flu, SARS-CoV-2, RSV, and human metapneumovirus (hMPV). 

HIV vaccine (mRNA-1644 & mRNA-1574): HIV is the virus responsible for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) — which is a lifelong progressive illness with no effective cure. About 38 million people worldwide are currently living with HIV with 1.2 million in the U.S. And approximately 2 million new infections of HIV are acquired worldwide every year and approximately 690,000 people die every year due to complications from HIV/AIDS. The primary routes of transmission are sexual intercourse and IV drug use, thus putting young adults at the highest risk of infection. Between 2000 and 2015, a total of $562.6 billion globally was spent on care, treatment and prevention of HIV, representing a significant economic burden. mRNA-1644 — a collaboration with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) — is a novel approach to HIV vaccine strategy in humans designed to elicit broadly Neutralizing HIV-1 Antibodies (bNAbs). A Phase 1 study for mRNA-1644 will use iterative human testing for validating the approach and antigens and multiple novel antigens will be used for germline-targeting and immuno-focusing. And a second approach (mRNA-1574) is being evaluated in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and includes multiple native-like trimer antigens. The company expects to begin phase 1 clinical trials for mRNA-1644 and mRNA-1574 in 2021.

Nipah virus (NiV) Vaccine (mRNA-1215): NiV is a zoonotic virus transmitted to humans from animals, contaminated food, or through direct human-to-human transmission and causes a range of illnesses including fatal encephalitis. Respiratory and neurologic complications of NiV have no treatment other than intensive supportive care. And the case fatality rate among those infected is estimated at 40-75%. NiV outbreaks can cause significant economic burden to impacted regions due to loss of human life and interventions to prevent further spread like the slaughter of infected animals. NiV has been identified as the cause of isolated outbreaks in India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Singapore since 2000 and it is included on the WHO R&D Blueprint list of epidemic threats needing urgent R&D action. mRNA-1215 was co-developed by Moderna and the NIH’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC).

Currently, Moderna has 24 mRNA development programs in its portfolio with 13 having entered the clinic. And there are multiple therapeutic programs anticipated to see clinical proof of concept data in 2021.

KEY QUOTE:

“The uniquely challenging year of 2020 for all of society proved to be an extraordinary proof-of-concept period for Moderna. Even as we have shown that our mRNA-based vaccine can prevent COVID-19, this has encouraged us to pursue more-ambitious development programs within our prophylactic vaccines modality. Today we are announcing three new vaccine programs addressing seasonal flu, HIV and the Nipah virus, some of which have eluded traditional vaccine efforts, and all of which we believe can be addressed with our mRNA technology. Beyond vaccines, we are extending our mRNA development work to a total of 24 programs across five therapeutic areas.”

— Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive officer

Disclosure: I have a small MRNA position in my stock portfolio.