What happened?

Shares of Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) were up by 9.4% as of 3:32 p.m. EDT on Thursday, after the company released its fiscal first-quarter earnings report.

However, the company's actual financial results weren't the highlight of its earnings release. Moderna announced some exciting news regarding its investigational COVID-19 vaccine, mRNA-1273. This news more than likely served as the catalyst for Moderna's shares jumping today.

So what

Moderna has been one of the leaders in the race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. Back in mid-March, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) started a phase 1 clinical trial to investigate the safety of mRNA-1273, its ability to trigger an immune response in the body, and the amount that causes expected side effects. The trial initially enrolled 45 healthy adult volunteers, but it was later amended to include six additional participants.

A person filling a syringe with liquid from a glass vial

Image source: Getty Images.

On May 9, Moderna announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) greenlit its Investigational New Drug Application (IND) for mRNA-1273, and the company is moving into phase 2 trials, which will "run in parallel with the NIH-run Phase I study." It expects to begin phase 3 dosing in "early summer."

Now what

Moderna's shares are up by 176.1% year to date thanks to its efforts to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus. And while the biotech company seems to be in a good position to be the first to do so, Moderna's stock remains risky. Moderna's investigational COVID-19 vaccine could still run into negative results from clinical trials -- or for that matter, another company could beat the company in this race. If that happens, Moderna's stock will come crashing down