Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) has become known for its coronavirus vaccine that's recently been authorized by multiple regulatory agencies. But the biotech's underlying messenger RNA (mRNA) technology can be used to produce other vaccines as well. In fact, the company has 24 development programs, including three new programs -- disclosed on Monday -- grappling with seasonal flu, HIV, and the Nipah virus.
The company's three flu vaccine candidates are testing multiple combinations of mRNAs that will hopefully protect against the four seasonal viruses named by the World Health Organization (WHO). The first clinical trials for the program are expected to start next year. If approved, there's potential to combine the flu vaccine with Moderna's coronavirus vaccine, as well as combining it with vaccines in development to protect against respiratory syncytial virus and human metapneumovirus.
For the HIV vaccine program, Moderna is taking a two-pronged approach with different strategies to invoke an immune reaction to protect against viral infection. Moderna is getting some help with both candidates: mRNA-1644 is being developed in collaboration with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, while mRNA-1574 is being evaluated in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Both candidates are expected to enter clinical trials this year.
At this point, the Nipah virus program doesn't have the same potential as the flu and HIV programs. But that could change quickly as the virus is on the WHO's list of potential epidemic threats after isolated outbreaks in India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Singapore.
While the coronavirus vaccine sales are important for Moderna's near-term valuation, long-term investors should be keeping a close eye on development of the biotech's well-stocked pipeline of vaccine candidates.