Moderna Pops 6% On Covid-19 Vaccine Response In Older Adults; Analyst Says Buy Now

Moderna disclosed on Wednesday that its mRNA vaccine candidate (mRNA-1273) against COVID-19 demonstrated robust immune responses in older adults that were comparable to those in younger adults. Shares rose 6.4% to $70.50 on Wednesday.

The new interim safety and immunogenicity data from the cohorts of older adults in the Phase 1 study were presented by Moderna (MRNA) at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention meeting on Wednesday. The study of 20 adults over the age of 55 found that almost two months after getting the second of two vaccine doses, participants had antibody levels higher than those of people who have recovered from Covid-19.

At the 100 µg dose, mRNA-1273 induced consistently high levels of neutralizing antibody titers in all participants in the 56-70 age range and 71+ age cohorts. Antibody titers were 2-3 fold above those seen in convalescent sera. Consistently high levels of neutralizing antibody titers were found in all participants in the young adult and older adult cohorts. In addition, the study showed that a 100 µg dose of the experimental vaccine was well-tolerated across all age groups.

mRNA-1273 is an mRNA vaccine against COVID-19 encoding for a prefusion stabilized form of the Spike (S) protein, and is being co-developed by Moderna and investigators from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease’s (NIAID) Vaccine Research Center.

The Phase 3 COVE study of mRNA-1273 began on July 27; enrollment is on track to complete in September. As of Aug. 25, 15,239 participants have been enrolled, the company added.

Moderna reiterated that it remains on track to deliver about 500 million doses per year, and up to 1 billion doses per year, beginning in 2021. Initial funding of $1.3 billion for Moderna to begin producing mRNA-1273 was secured from investors in the company’s most recent public equity offering in May 2020.

Shares in Moderna have dropped 12% over the past month but have exploded 260% so far this year. Wall Street analysts still have a Strong Buy consensus on the stock’s outlook. Looking ahead, the $93.23 average price target suggests an additional 32% upside potential lies ahead.

Commenting on the data five-star analyst Hartaj Singh at Oppenheimer pointed out that a successful “recapitulation of these P1 benefits in the 20 older adults in later stage trials could differentiate mRNA-1273’s profile over competitors during and into the post-pandemic COVID-19 settings”.

In addition, Singh believes that the presented data could facilitate Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) discussions with US regulators following the Phase 3 trial. The analyst is also confident on mRNA-1273’s manufacturing capacity and keeps his Buy rating on the stock with a $108 price target (53% upside potential), adding that Moderna’s upcoming R&D Day on Sept. 17 could potentially provide multiple material data updates.

“With MRNA experiencing sustained weakness recently, we see opportunities to accumulate MRNA shares as the strength of the data flow and presentations continues to build,” Singh said. (See MRNA stock analysis on TipRanks).

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