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Moderna (MRNA) COVID-19 Vaccine Effective Against Delta Variant

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Moderna, Inc. (MRNA - Free Report) announced new results from in vitro neutralization studies on sera from individuals vaccinated with its COVID-19 vaccine, mRNA-1273. Data showed that vaccination with mRNA-1273 can produce neutralizing titers against all variants tested, including the rapidly spreading delta variant (B.1.617.12).

Data from neutralization studies demonstrated a modest reduction of 2.1-fold in neutralizing titers against the Delta variant compared to the ancestral strain (D614G, found in Wuhan) following vaccination with Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Apart from Delta, the study also tested the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine against other variants, including Beta (B.1.351; South African variant), Gamma (P.1; Brazilian variant) Kappa (B.1.617.1), Eta (B.1.525), Alpha, A.23.1, and A.VOI.V2. Data showed that neutralizing titers had minimal impact against Alpha and A.23.1 variants compared to D614G. Neutralizing titers reduced 3.2-fold for Gamma variant, 3.3-3.4-fold for Kappa variant, 4.2-fold for Eta variant and 7.3 or 8.4-fold for Beta variant, which included additional versions of the BETA variant, relative to the ancestral strain. Reduction in neutralizing titers relative to the ancestral strain was 8-fold for A.VOI.V2.

The new, highly contagious Delta variant has fueled the risk of a third wave of infection across the globe. Per a Bloomberg article, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also warned that the Delta variant is likely to become the dominant strain in the United States going forward.

The evidence that mRNA-1273 can work against the DELTA variant has boosted investors’ sentiment for the acceptability of the vaccine as a solution to contain COVID-19 risks going forward. With rising cases of infection with Delta variant, the prospects of an effective vaccine like mRNA-1273 against the variant will likely drive revenues.

In a separate press release, the company announced that the government of India has issued a registration certificate and a permission to import Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for restricted use in an emergency situation in the country. This authorization represents significant opportunity for the company as a very little percentage of people have been vaccinated in India. Proper availability of the vaccine across the country will likely boost revenues of the company going forward.

Shares of Moderna were up 5.2% on Jun 29 following the variant data readout and  authorization in India. In fact, the company’s shares have surged 124.4% so far this year compared with the industry’s increase of 1%.

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Meanwhile, the company is currently seeking authorization for emergency/temporary/conditional use of mRNA-1273 in adolescents in several countries including the United States, Europe and Canada. The vaccine has demonstrated an efficacy of 100% in adolescents, with no cases of COVID-19 after 14 days following administration of the second dose in late-stage study. The company’s key competitors in the COVID-19 vaccine field, Pfizer (PFE - Free Report) and its partner BioNTech (BNTX - Free Report) received authorization for emergency/conditional use of their COVID-19 vaccine, BNT162b2, in adolescents in the United States and Europe, last month.

We remind investors that Moderna has initiated rolling submission for a biologics license application (BLA) with the FDA seeking approval/licensure for use of mRNA-1273 in adults earlier this month. A potential approval to the BLA for mRNA-1273 will allow Moderna to continue to commercialize the COVID-19 vaccine even after the emergency situation recedes with lowering of infection rates. The company is also signing agreements with different companies, including Catalent (CTLT - Free Report) and Sanofi, to support adequate supply of its vaccine amid the risk of rising infection rates.

Zacks Rank

Moderna currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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