Moderna Says Covid-19 Vaccine Appears To Protect Against Variants; Shares Jump 12%

Shares of Moderna spiked 12.2% on Jan. 25 after the biotech company said that laboratory studies suggested that its COVID-19 vaccine should be effective against the emerging variants of the virus. This included the B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 variants, first identified in the UK and South Africa, respectively.

Specifically, Moderna (MRNA) found that its COVID-19 vaccine produced neutralizing antibodies against the emerging variants of the virus. In addition, it was found that the current two-dose schedule of the vaccine at a dose of 100 micrograms is expected to be protective against the variants.

Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna said, “As we seek to defeat the COVID-19 virus, which has created a worldwide pandemic, we believe it is imperative to be proactive as the virus evolves. We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine should be protective against these newly detected variants,”

The study showed a “six-fold” reduction in neutralizing antibodies in the South African virus variant.

“Despite this reduction, neutralizing titer levels with B.1.351 remain above levels that are expected to be protective,” Moderna stated.

As a result, the pharma and biotech company now intends to develop a new booster mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccine against the South African variant of the virus. Furthermore, Moderna will seek to test an additional booster dose of its vaccine that will increase the generation of neutralizing antibodies against the emerging variants of the virus beyond the current primary vaccinations.

Following the announcement, Piper Sandler analyst Edward Tenthoff reiterated a Buy and set a price target of $170 on the stock.

Tenthoff commented in a note to investors, “Despite the slow vaccination pace, Moderna expects to deliver 200M mRNA-1273 doses in the U.S. by end of Q2, and 600M to 1B doses globally by the end of 2021.” (See MRNA stock analysis on TipRanks)

Overall, analysts are cautiously optimistic about the stock and the consensus is a Moderate Buy with 7 analysts recommending a Buy, 7 analysts suggesting a Hold, and 2 analysts recommending a Sell. The average price target of $147.85 implies 0.6% upside potential to current levels. Shares have risen 19.1% in the past month.

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