US Moderna Therapeutics has announced the first positive results (in its first phase) of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine (phase two trials are about to begin). Early findings from a first human trial of the vaccine suggest that it may create an immune response. The objective of the trial, conducted in only 45 people, was to test the safety of three doses with two injections. These have been well tolerated, with no significant reactions identified which are different from other vaccines. Similar or higher antibody levels were found in the plasma of patients who recovered. However, it is also necessary to evaluate the quality of these antibodies and at the moment this information is only available in 8 patients.
While additional data is pending publication, this intermediate information, albeit positive, should be considered with care as it does not yet show whether the vaccine could prevent infection. It has been tested on mice that were subsequently exposed to the virus, preventing viral replication in the lungs.
In this long-distance race, Moderna’s experimental vaccine is in the Phase 1 trial in which three groups of 15 patients aged 18-55 years received three different doses of the vaccine. Then comes Phase 2 in which the test group totals 600 people and should start this quarter. Finally, if everything progresses properly, Phase 3 would start in July and would have a fairly large control group.
The usual timeframes required for vaccine development are being compressed and there are over 100 experimental trials underway, with the goal of having one available for emergency use in the autumn. If an effective vaccine is to be achieved, the main challenge is financing the manufacturing process. To this end, Moderna plans to make a $1.3 billion capital increase at a 5% discount vs yesterday’s close. On Monday, the share price closed up 20%, driving the overall S&P market 4% higher and Europe 5%. The stock has seen a revaluation of 300% in the year to date.
The Covid-19 vaccine will be a crucial step in lifting social distancing measures and moving forward in reopening the world’s economies. That said, the challenge is not only to find a safe and efficient vaccine, but also to produce billions of doses.