Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) has been one of the superstars of the coronavirus vaccine race -- from a share performance and vaccine development perspective. The biotech company's shares have soared as it went from first to start human trials to a phase 3 trial in about four months.
Moderna slid as the market crashed in March, but the stock quickly recovered. As they say, timing is everything. Moderna announced the launch of clinical trials for its vaccine candidate a few days after the market's plunge deepened. The shares then surged 48% over three trading sessions. So, if you had invested $10,000 in Moderna during the crash, how much money would you have now? Let's take a look.
Moderna traded lower than $20 a share in January and February. But the stock began to gain steam in early March -- climbing to more than $29 -- as it became clear Moderna would be a significant player in the vaccine race. Then came the crash that pulled the stock down to a March low of $21.30.
Guess how much Moderna stock is trading for at the time of this writing? More than $63. (And that's off its high of nearly $95 in July.) If you'd invested $10,000 in the shares at the March low, you would now have $29,547. You would have held on through the positives, such as when the company reported encouraging interim data from its phase 1 trial and announced as much as $2.48 billion in U.S. government funding.
You also would have held on through some of the more difficult moments. When top Moderna executives sold shares after reporting the trial data in May, some investors worried about management's faith in the company's programs. The sales were routine transactions, however, arranged to be carried out at a pre-set date. This wasn't an ominous sign from Moderna's leaders. If you held on to your Moderna shares, you made the right move.
Another hard time for Moderna came with news reports in early July that the start of the company's phase 3 trial could be delayed. But Moderna maintained its publicly announced promise to begin the study during that month. It launched on July 27. Though Moderna shares now are down from their July high, holding onto the shares was the right choice if you believe Moderna's program will make it to the finish line.
Is now too late to invest?
So, now, should you stay invested? And if you haven't yet purchased Moderna shares, is it too late? First, let me preface this by saying only aggressive investors with a tolerance for risk should invest in/hold onto shares of Moderna at this point. The company is clinical stage, meaning it doesn't have other products on the market to immediately generate revenue if the coronavirus vaccine program fails. (Even if trial data is positive now, anything can happen at any moment during a clinical trial.) The shares are also highly dependent on coronavirus vaccine news.
But if you are an aggressive investor, Moderna still represents opportunity. From a timeline perspective, the company is one of the leaders in the coronavirus vaccine race. Of the 33 programs in clinical studies, Moderna is among the eight involved in phase 3 trials.
When it comes to data, Moderna is also a leader. The biotech recently reported something important -- promising early results among older trial participants. Performance in older patients is crucial because the elderly have been the most vulnerable to the coronavirus. In two groups -- ages 56 to 70 and 71 and older -- neutralizing antibody levels were two to three times higher than those observed in recovered coronavirus patients. Neutralizing antibodies are seen as key because they block infection.
The finish line
If Moderna doesn't make it to the finish line first, the shares may suffer in the short term. But that wouldn't mean all is lost. There will be more than one winner in this vaccine race -- as long as trials of various companies are successful. Demand is higher than the supply one vaccine maker is able to offer.
So, if regulators approve Moderna's vaccine -- first or after one of the biotech company's rivals -- more share gains may be on the horizon.