Some investors think the ship has already sailed when it comes to investing in Moderna (MRNA 0.55%). With a market cap of well over $50 billion, Moderna's opportunities for its COVID-19 vaccine mRNA-1273 seem to largely be baked into its share price.
I'd definitely agree that Moderna's valuation a couple of months ago was much more attractive than it is now. However, I don't think it's necessarily too late to buy the biotech stock. Here are three reasons why.
1. Billions of dollars likely on the way
I fully expect the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee that's meeting today will vote overwhelmingly in favor of recommending emergency use authorization (EUA) for mRNA-1273. I also fully expect the FDA will quickly grant EUA to Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine.
Assuming this does indeed happen, Moderna will soon receive a massive influx of cash. The company has supply deals lined up with the U.S., Canada, the U.K., the European Commission, Israel, Japan, and Singapore. How much money could Moderna make from mRNA-1273 in the near future? Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal predicts the biotech will rake in $11 billion next year.
I think the total could be even higher than that. The U.S. has already exercised its option to buy an additional 100 million doses of mRNA-1273. If any of the companies with late-stage coronavirus vaccines stumble, Moderna could sell many more doses to the U.S. and other countries than what its current supply agreements specify.
Sure, many investors intellectually know that Moderna is on the threshold of pulling in huge revenue. I suspect, though, that when the company announces its quarterly results throughout next year, the full impact of Moderna's financial strength will hit and drive the stock higher.
2. Long-term platform potential
On a related note, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel has publicly stated that his company will use its newfound wealth to invest heavily into expanding its pipeline. Bancel even speculated that Moderna could become the biggest vaccine company in the world within the next three or four years.
That's probably an overly exuberant expectation. However, I do think that Moderna has tremendous long-term potential for its mRNA platform. That platform likely will grow much larger thanks to the cash generated by mRNA-1273.
I look for Moderna to have another megablockbuster on the market within the next few years, with its cytomegalovirus (CMV) vaccine advancing into late-stage testing next year. That's probably just the tip of the iceberg. My view is that some investors don't fully appreciate the opportunities that Moderna could have in the future with its mRNA vaccines and therapies.
3. Possibility of more frequent COVID-19 vaccinations
Finally, there's a wild card that could really shake up the dynamics for Moderna. We really don't know at this point how long mRNA-1273 or any other vaccine provides protection against infection by the novel coronavirus. Bernstein's Ronny Gal assumes booster shots will be needed every three years. Others anticipate annual vaccinations. But what if COVID-19 vaccination is required more frequently -- perhaps every six months?
This could dramatically increase the annual market for coronavirus vaccines. If Moderna could realistically expect to sell 1 billion doses each year at $32 per dose, the stock is an absolute steal at its current valuation.
It's too early to know what the actual duration of protection will be for mRNA-1273 and other COVID-19 vaccines. However, my take is that investors are making a mistake if they assume that it's too late to buy Moderna stock while the jury is out on this critical factor.