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Is There a Future for Moderna Beyond COVID-19?

By Taylor Carmichael - Feb 25, 2021 at 2:00PM

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What does Moderna's future look like aside from its COVID-19 vaccine program?

While Moderna (MRNA -1.20%) is famous for its COVID-19 vaccine, the biotech actually has a vast development pipeline for many other mRNA vaccines. This year, all the revenues are going to come from vaccinating people to stop COVID, but over the next decade, the company might have revenues from a variety of vaccines and therapies.

In this video from Motley Fool Live recorded on Feb. 19, Healthcare and Cannabis Bureau Chief Corinne Jurney Cardina and Fool contributor Taylor Carmichael discuss Moderna's platform outside of COVID.

Corinne Cardina: Let's talk about Moderna beyond its COVID-19 vaccine. I think that's what your second green flag is, sorry. [laughs]

Taylor Carmichael: You got to think about...vaccines have always been kind of an uninteresting segment in healthcare. Because vaccines were very important, and we vaccinate against a lot of illnesses, polio, and the list goes on and on. We do that as babies, so one-and-done shot. Almost all those drugs have come off-patent. There's just no money in vaccines. The only real market in the United States and in Europe is flu. That's a tiny market. That's a $4 or $5 billion market. That was a concern with Moderna, is how big is their market opportunity in just vaccines, because vaccines have always been not super-profitable. A couple of points, one, COVID-19 has shown us, maybe made vaccines more important. People have been talking about vaccines over this last year for a long time. The vaccine market, and I'm inclined to think we're going to be vaccinating for COVID-19, not just this year, but probably next year too, and maybe the year after that. I don't think it's going to be a one-and-done shot, because it does mutate. So I think vaccines are going to be more important than historically the market has recognized. But as you were talking about, Moderna also has a platform, and they're trying to expand their mRNA technology into things like cancer. Cancer is a huge market opportunity for them. Now, being able to work against infectious disease is something that mRNA is really good at, and we don't know how good it's going to be with cancer. That's a completely different thing and even talking about a vaccine in cancer, that's not quite the same thing. You vaccinate to keep foreign bodies from invading you. That's not really how a cancer vaccine works. It's very early on the rest of their platform. The cancer is very early on that, so I wouldn't count on it. But it's nice to know that they are attempting to expand outside of vaccines. They are looking at additional opportunities. Any new technology in cancer can be exciting. It's very early. I don't even think they are in Phase 1 on their cancer drug yet.

Corinne Cardina: So they have a personalized cancer vaccine, that is in Phase 2 trials. This is not a vaccine for you and me, average Joe. This is for people who have cancer. Even though it's a vaccine, it's really more of a therapeutic and would be used in conjunction with chemo, radiation, the standard of care. They've got that. Then they've got, let me see if I can say this, it sounds like a dinosaur to me, CytoMegalovirus vaccines, CMV that is a herpes virus that impacts pregnant women and the development of newborns. So that is in Phase 2. Then they are testing a vaccine for solid tumors in ovarian cancer. It does have a few things in the Phase 2, but certainly, nothing is a sure thing there yet. The most sure thing for Moderna is that it currently has $11 billion in contracts for its COVID-19 vaccine, and for a company, that didn't have anything on the market a year ago, $11 billion? We consider something to be a blockbuster if it brings in $1 billion in revenue annually. This is the equivalent of going from 0 to 100 within a year. 

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