Stocks have had a rough week so far with the market experiencing three down days in a row. But there’s one stock that’s surging higher on very good news.
Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA) shares have surged roughly 60% in the first three trading days of this week. The clinical-stage biotech announced Monday that had shipped off its first batch of mRNA-1273, its experimental vaccine against COVID-19, to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to be used in a planned Phase I study in the U.S.
The NIAID will investigate mRNA-1273 and, if everything goes well, it will begin clinical trials on human participants as early as April. Considering that it took 20 months for NIAID to begin testing a vaccine for SARS back in the early 2000s, shipping and potentially testing Moderna’s vaccine within three months is astoundingly fast.
“Going into a Phase One trial within three months of getting the sequence is unquestionably the world indoor record,” NIAID Director Anthony Fauci told the Wall Street Journal. “Nothing has ever gone that fast.”
Fauci also added that there had been “no glitches” in the development of Moderna’s vaccine.
And while there’s no guarantee that mRNA-1273 will work, the news that Moderna has already shipped it off for testing came at a time when worry over the spread of the virus is becoming increasingly heightened.
As of Wednesday morning, there were more than 81,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus globally, with at least 2,764 deaths from the virus. And for the first time, new cases outside of China—where the virus originated—have surpassed that of the number of new cases within the country. Officials in the U.S. have said the outbreak will likely become a pandemic.
“Current global circumstances suggest it’s likely this virus will cause a pandemic,” said principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Anne Schuchat. “It’s not so much a question of if this will happen any more, but rather more a question of when this will happen and how many people in this country will become infected and how many of those will develop severe or more complicated disease.”
“We can’t hermetically seal off the United States,” added Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
In a note Tuesday morning, Chardan Global Insights analyst Geulah Livshits wrote that the speed with which Moderna was able to produce a vaccine for the virus that is suitable to be injected into humans was good news for the company.
“To us, the rapid turnaround reflects the company’s investment in manufacturing and mRNA design infrastructure,” Livshits wrote in the note.
While analysts generally assume that tests, vaccines, and cures for the coronavirus are unlikely to generate substantial revenue for the companies producing them, even if scientifically successful, Livshits suggested that the spread of the epidemic may be changing the math.
Livshits argues that the commercial potential for Moderna’s vaccine could be greater if COVID-19 begins to spread more like the flu than SARS did.
“As numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to rise, with signals of spread beyond China, this scenario begins to become more likely,” Livshits wrote.