Moderna Inc.’s shares fell around 10% by Wednesday as investors grow uneasy about the prospects of the vaccine in early stage development, reported Reuters. As TrialSite News tracked, there were signs of concern with some elements of Moderna’s vaccine data.
Although the share price has more than doubled this year, these prices represent a volatile situation as perhaps investors start listening more to scientists who question a 12 to 18-month timeline for the development of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Hartaj Singh, an analyst with Oppenheimer, was quoted that “The stock was due for a pullback on some concerns around timing of COVID-19 vaccine deployment” reported Reuters’ Manas Mishra.
Important Figures Comment
Kenneth Frazier, CEO of large American pharmaceutical company Merck & Co, commented recently to the Financial Times that the 12-18-month timeline “was too aggressive.” Moreover, former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb commented on CNBC, “We will certainly have doses (of coronavirus vaccines) by the end of the year, I just don’t think we will have data to support widespread inoculation by then.”
Influential Publications Impact Stock Price
Stat is just one of those publications. Well-financed with good research and dedicated journalists such as Matthew Herper who covered the story of Ian Haydon, a 29-year old in Seattle who has also interviewed on CNN and CNBC. Apparently, Mr. Haydon was one of three people who experienced systematic adverse reactions to the mRNA-1273 vaccine. Well, he did go to urgent care with a 103-degree fever but did recover within a day Mr. Herper exposed. But apparently that story was correlated with a drop of 16% in the stock price!
Investor Generalized Concerns
The scientific reality check may be making its way to Wall Street. Examples include Yasmeen Rahimi with Roth Capital Partners (actually Newport Beach) who fret about the “lack of data.”
Operation Warp Speed
But President Donald Trump has given the U.S. national research apparatus (including participating drug companies that receive taxpayer money) some ‘BHAGs’ including a safe and efficacious vaccine by January 2021 as part of the ambitious and possibly game changing Operation Warp Speed. Assuming this ambitious marshaling of federal research apparatus is more than marketing—and based on the large sums of money being allocated it would appear so—the drug companies that have taken the money ($1b to AstraZeneca, $483m to Moderna, etc.) must feel the pressure. But can political and financial pressure overcome what could possibly be natural scientific constraints? They now face a different kind of pressure out of Washington.
Vaccine and Drug Development is a Long Game
Vaccine and drug development is a high risk, long-term type of activity. Those that seek to make a quick buck, in pandemic conditions, perhaps should consider harnessing all of that incredibly intelligent energy into the underlying fundamentals of which companies can truly contribute to the overall health of people around the world. Vaccine development really is a long, complex process lasting 10-15 years and involving intensive interplay between government (and associated agencies) and the private sector. Vaccine research and development mirrors drug development—with lengthy periods of time to accommodate clinical trials. But vaccine development even takes longer because of the number of participants involved in vaccine trials is often greater.
Back to Moderna
As of this writing (May 29 in the AM), their share price stands at $57.21. Their 52-week range is $11.54-$87. Some critics contend that without real data, the press release party simply creates a false sense of progress. The company’s executives should be careful; with such big stakes and so much taxpayer money involved, they should lead the way by focusing on long term, sound science and research and not feed into short-run drama. They should try to keep press releases to a minimum unless there is material information.