What happened

Moderna (MRNA -3.36%) bucked the bear market on Thursday, closing the day 1.2% higher. That lift appears to have stemmed from at-first-glance minor news about a new company hire.

So what

Thursday morning, Moderna announced that it had hired a managing director (Michael Mullette, formerly a long-serving executive at Sanofi) for its Canadian operations, effective immediately.

Gloved hand filling a syringe from a vial.

Image source: Getty Images.

Relative to the boisterous neighbor to its south, Canada is far less populous and a more limited market for almost any U.S. company. So, on the surface, this might appear to be an unimportant piece of news.

But when we consider that Moderna will need some degree of international operations in place when and if its promising mRNA-1273 vaccine candidate is approved by major regulators, this information leaps ahead in importance. Typically for a still-young biotech, Moderna has a small footprint in terms of manpower and presence.

Establishing a Canadian branch indicates that it's aware of the need to grow outside of U.S. borders, and to do so quickly with personnel who have operated successfully in those markets.

Now what

Hopes are high for Moderna and mRNA-1273, given the fact that it has shown very encouraging results in earlier-stage testing (the company is currently recruiting for its crucial phase 3 study).

Yet investor optimism about any positive development the company reports should be tempered by the fact that the coronavirus/COVID-19 vaccine race is very competitive, and no candidate is guaranteed to test well in late-stage trials, let alone be approved for use.