Moderna Inc. (MRNA) said it entered into a collaboration with Catalent (CTLT) for large-scale, commercial manufacturing of its mRNA-based experimental vaccine candidate against the novel coronavirus.
As part of the agreement, Catalent will provide vial filling and packaging, as well as additional staffing at its facility for the production of an initial 100 million doses of the vaccine candidate to supply the U.S. market starting in the third quarter of this year. The companies said that they are also in talks to secure capacity for continued production of hundreds of millions of additional doses.
The announcement pushed Catalent shares up 3.2% to $72.71 in midday U.S. trading, while Moderna dropped 5% to $61.60.
“We appreciate this collaboration with Catalent and the flexibility of their team to deliver critical fill-finish capacity for mRNA-1273 at unprecedented speed,” said Juan Andres, Moderna’s Chief Technical Operations and Quality Officer.
The partnership comes as Moderna announced that it is commencing with the late-stage testing of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The biotech company, which has already finalized the Phase 3 study protocol for the vaccine candidate is expected to start a trial of 30,000 participants enrolled in the U.S. in July.
The trial’s primary endpoint will be the prevention of symptomatic COVID-19 disease, while key secondary endpoints include prevention of infection by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease. As part of the collaboration, Catalent will also provide clinical supply services for the study, including packaging, labeling, storage and distribution.
Shares in Moderna more than tripled this year, as investors piled into the stock amid hopes for the potential of its virus vaccine. It looks like the rally has not yet run out of steam. Indeed, the $87.64 average analyst price target still indicates a bullish 43% upside potential from current levels. (See Moderna stock analysis on TipRanks).
Five-star analyst Geulah Livshits at Chardan Capital on Thursday reiterated a Buy rating on the stock with a $84 price target.
“The disclosed agreement with Catalent puts another piece in place towards Moderna’s commercial deployment of mRNA-1273 if positive clinical data emerge,” Livshits wrote in a note to investors.
Moderna stock scores 11 Buy ratings versus 2 Hold ratings from analysts which add up to a Strong Buy consensus.
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