Moderna Shares Slump As Coronavirus Vaccine Questions Mount

Moderna's phase 1 coronavirus vaccine, mRNA-127, has helped lift shares in the drugmaker to record highs, but is now facing detailed questions about its efficacy.

Moderna Inc  (MRNA) - Get Report shares extended declines from their all-time high Wednesday following a report that cast doubt on the drugmaker's progress in developing a coronavirus vaccine.

Cambridge, Mass.-based Moderna shares hit a record high Monday after the group published details of its phase 1 vaccine study that suggested at least eight of the 45 patients involved developed coronavirus antibodies in the weeks following the injection of it developing the drug, mRNA-127.

The healthcare and pharmacy website, Stat News, however, published a report shortly after which questioned the study's sample size, the dearth of hard data and the lack of a corresponding statement from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which partnered with Moderna in the phase 1 study.

More detailed results from a peer-reviewed study are expected later in the summer, but the Stat News report, as well as Moderna's decision to 17.6 million shares at $76 each following Monday's 20% surge to $80 a share, added to investor concerns and generated criticism from political leaders.

"The vaccine must be available to all people," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters during his daily briefing Tuesday. "It can't be a situation where only the rich, only the privileged can get the vaccine because one company owns the rights and they can't produce enough for everyone."

Moderna shares were marked 5.6% lower in early trading Wednesday to change hands at $67.46 each, a move that would still leave the stock some 200% higher than it was last year and value the drugmaker at around $25.2 billion.

Another issue noted by STAT is that while the Phase 1 trial included healthy volunteers aged 18 to 55, the ages of these eight people that developed the neutralizing antibodies are unknown, while Anna Durbin, a vaccine researcher at Johns Hopkins University, noted that blood drawn for the study was taken just two weeks after patients received the vaccine. 

 "The commercial potential of mRNA-1273 is still not clear to us given that terms with third parties have not been disclosed and also due to lack of visibility into competitor programs,' said BMO Capital Markets analyst George Farmer, who nonetheless boosted his price target on the stock to $112.00 per share following Monday's phase 1 study release.

"However, we think upward momentum will remain on continued news flow and expectation that mRNA-1273 could be the first SARS-CoV-2 vaccine to win regulatory approval," he added.