Moderna Says Developing Vaccine Against New COVID Strain; Shares Leap

Moderna said Monday that it is "advancing an emerging variant booster candidate against the variant first identified in the Republic of South Africa" to see if its more effective than its currently-approved vaccine.
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Moderna Inc.  (MRNA) - Get Report said Monday that it will advance studies of a vaccine candidate that will protect patients against a new and deadlier strain of the coronavirus first identified in South Africa.

Moderna said its existing two-dose vaccine, mRNA-1273, is expected to be protective against the emerging strains, which were also identified in the United Kingdom, but added that "out of an abundance of caution" it would push studies of a new vaccine candidate that protects against the B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 variants.  

“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,” said CEO Stéphane Bancel. “Out of an abundance of caution and leveraging the flexibility of our mRNA platform, we are advancing an emerging variant booster candidate against the variant first identified in the Republic of South Africa into the clinic to determine if it will be more effective to boost titers against this and potentially future variants.”  

Moderna shares jumped 8.6% higher in early trading following the vaccine announcement to change hands at $142.60 each, extending its one-month gain to around 28%.

The new coronavirus strains are accelerating infections around the world and compelling President Biden to sign Executive Orders banning travel from both countries -- as well as Brazil and the broader European Union -- in order to slow its spread.

Global infections -- including all strains -- are now nearing the 100 million mark, with more than 25 million documented cases in the United States.