Moderna Looks Beyond COVID as it Doses First Patient With mRNA-Based Seasonal Flu Vaccine
On July 7th, Moderna, the biotech responsible for developing one of the mRNA vaccines against COVID19, announced initiating clinical trials for its seasonal flu vaccine. The announcement is crucial as Moderna searches for its next product and tries to reduce its dependency on the COVID-19 vaccine.
The price of Moderna’s stock is closely linked to COVID-19 news. When reports emerged that Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine against COVID-19 was less effective at preventing infection of the delta variant, Moderna’s stock closed almost 5% lower.
The Boston-based company jumped to fame after its COVID-19 vaccine became the second to be approved by the FDA for COVID-19. This made their stock jump from around $20 in early 2020 to over $232 at the time of writing.
Moderna specializes in developing mRNA-based vaccines and therapeutics. Currently, their pipeline includes vaccines against several viruses, including Zika, HIV, Cytomegalovirus (CMV), and others. They are also developing vaccines against cancer and cancer-driving proteins. Their most advanced therapeutic, after the COVID-19 vaccine, is the CMV vaccine currently in Phase 2/3 clinical trials.
About the Flu Vaccine
Influenza or seasonal flu causes between 290,000-650,000 deaths, and it costs the economy around $11 billion every year. The current vaccines have an efficacy between 40-60%, and they need to be updated every season. Hence, there is a need for more effective vaccines.
Moderna aims to increase efficacy by targeting four lineages of the virus. Based on recommendations by the World Health Organization, they targeted the lineages H1N1 and H3N2 of influenza A and Yamagata and Victoria variants of influenza B.
The safety, reactogenicity, and immunogenicity of mRNA-1010 are being tested in the Phase 1/2 randomized, stratified, observer-blind, dose-ranging trial. It will recruit around 180 healthy participants over the age of 18.
Moderna’s long-term goal is to develop a vaccine for respiratory illnesses for the adult and the elderly. The vaccine would include the COVID19 variant booster, seasonal flu, respiratory syncytial virus, and human metapneumovirus.
“We are pleased to have begun this Phase 1/2 study of mRNA-1010, our first mRNA seasonal flu vaccine candidate to enter the clinic. We expect that our seasonal influenza vaccine candidates will be an important component of our future combination respiratory vaccines,” said Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna.
“Respiratory combination vaccines are an important pillar of our overall mRNA vaccine strategy. We believe that the advantages of mRNA vaccines include the ability to combine different antigens to protect against multiple viruses and the ability to rapidly respond to the evolution of respiratory viruses, such as influenza, SARS-CoV-2, and RSV. Our vision is to develop an mRNA combination vaccine so that people can get one shot each fall for high efficacy protection against the most problematic respiratory viruses. We look forward to advancing our core modality of prophylactic mRNA vaccines so that we can continue to make an impact on global public health.”
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