Shares of Moderna (MRNA 3.01%) jumped 12.2% on Monday after the biotechnology company said its COVID-19 vaccine provides protection against new coronavirus strains first identified in the U.K. and South Africa.
Scientists have discovered several new variants of the novel coronavirus that are more contagious -- and potentially more dangerous -- than previous versions. Doctors, in turn, have questioned whether Moderna's vaccine would be effective against the new strains.
Moderna said on Monday that its vaccine did provide protection against all the strains tested, including those found in the U.K. and South Africa, in a study conducted in collaboration with the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
However, Moderna saw a sixfold reduction in neutralizing antibodies with the strain from South Africa. Though they remained above levels that are believed to guard people against the disease, Moderna will test whether a booster dose of its vaccine could provide additional protection.
"As we seek to defeat the COVID-19 virus, which has created a worldwide pandemic, we believe it is imperative to be proactive as the virus evolves," Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said in a press release.
Moderna intends to begin its vaccine booster studies in March. The company hopes to have results back before the autumn, when viral infection rates tend to rise. "The thing we want to be ready for is the fall," Bancel told Yahoo! Finance. "We don't have to go again through a dreadful winter like we're going through now."