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Moderna shares posted their biggest two-day rally in a year after the company said a new vaccine to fight the Omicron strain of the coronavirus could be ready by early 2022 if required.
Shares of the vaccine maker, which is planning to set up operations in Australia, jumped 12 per cent to the highest level since September 30 after surging 21 per cent during Friday’s global risk-asset selloff, to reclaim its place as the best-performing stock on Wall Street’s S&P 500 benchmark year-to-date.
Moderna mobilised hundreds of workers on America’s Thanksgiving Day last Thursday in order to start work on Omicron, Chief Medical Officer Paul Burton said over the weekend.
Moderna shares have rallied on hopes for a quick Omicron-updated version of its COVID vaccine.Credit:AP
“We should know about the ability of the current vaccine to provide protection in the next couple of weeks,” Burton said on Sunday on the BBC’s “Andrew Marr Show.”
“If we have to make a brand new vaccine, I think that’s going to be early 2022 before that’s really going to be available in large quantities,” he said. “The remarkable thing about the mRNA vaccines, the Moderna platform, is that we can move very fast,” he said.
Moderna’s mRNA technology is ideally suited to adapting vaccines to new variants, according to Piper Sandler analyst Edward Tenthoff, who has an overweight rating on the stock.
“Moderna is in a better position to develop novel COVID-19 vaccines, and now has capacity to manufacture several hundred million vaccine doses every month,” Tenthoff wrote in a note to clients. “SARS-CoV-2 is not going away and will provide years of future revenues.”
Jefferies analyst Michael Yee also struck an optimistic tone for Moderna investors, saying the latest spread should encourage people to get boosted sooner rather than later, while the biotech focuses on a new version for 2022. Moderna “can advance new candidates to clinical trials within 60 to 90 days,” he said.
Shares of Pfizer’s German research partner BioNTech closed 4.2 per cent higher in US trading after saying it is working to adapt its COVID-19 vaccine to address the Omicron variant and expects to have a new version ready within 100 days if necessary. The biotech and Pfizer put plans into place months ago. Pfizer shares closed 3 per cent lower.
It’s standard procedure to begin developing an updated vaccine in parallel with running tests of how the new strain reacts with the existing shot “in order not to waste any time,” BioNTech said. “Lab tests will deliver more information on whether or not adaption of the vaccine will be necessary.”
Vaccinated people should still be protected, depending on how long ago they got their shots, and for now the best advice is to take one of the current COVID vaccines, Moderna CMO Burton said.
Pfizer’s and BioNTech’s vaccine is on track to be the best-selling pharma product ever on a yearly basis. Another vaccine maker, AstraZeneca, said late last week it’s also investigating the variant.
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