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Here Are the Most Exciting Vaccines in Moderna's Pipeline

By Brian Orelli, PhD and Keith Speights - Mar 13, 2021 at 9:15AM

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There's more to the biotech than its coronavirus vaccine.

Moderna (MRNA -0.92%) is most famous for its quick development of a coronavirus vaccine. But the biotech was developing vaccines for other diseases before the pandemic and will be developing vaccines long after COVID-19 is a distant memory. In this video from Motley Fool Live, recorded on March 1, contributors Brian Orelli and Keith Speights discuss the biotech's current pipeline and what investors should be looking forward to in the months and years to come.

Brian Orelli: Then Moderna has a lot of vaccines behind its coronavirus vaccine and like most drug companies, they took the opportunity, having a captive audience on the fourth-quarter earnings report to highlight quite a few of the different pipeline candidates. Are there any that stuck out to you?

Keith Speights: Yeah. Actually, there were several. Their second lead candidate after their COVID-19 vaccine is their cytomegalovirus vaccine, CMV vaccine. They're planning to advance that vaccine candidate to phase 3 testing this year, which is important, obviously, get it into late-stage testing. There is no approved CMV vaccine on the market right now so there is a real big opportunity there. Moderna actually think that they could generate peak annual sales with this vaccine between $2 billion and $5 billon. That's kind of a wide range but I think that's reasonable considering there are no approved vaccines for CMV right now. So I think that's really one to watch, particularly because it will be their lead pipeline candidate now going forward.

Orelli: It was their lead pipeline candidate before. [laughs]

Speights: Yeah, yeah. It was their lead candidate before and then COVID came along. That's definitely one to keep an eye on and it's one that I think investors will really watch for signs of how things are going.

Another candidate, it's actually multiple candidates that I think we should watch closely are the flu vaccine candidates that Moderna has moved into pre-clinical testing. They're evaluating three different candidates, and I think the reason why to watch this is just the flu is such a big market, it's a seasonal market. There's a big opportunity there. Some of the leading flu vaccines right now are blockbusters and so there's, I think, a big potential if the mRNA approach works well against influenza.

Just one that's intriguing to me, Moderna has an HIV vaccine candidate in pre-clinical testing. You know, we've had tremendous progress over the last couple of decades, particularly, with treating HIV. Gilead Sciences (GILD 1.03%), for example, has made tremendous progress in treating HIV with their therapies. We haven't had a vaccine so far, and I think this was just definitely one to watch. I'm not sure if it will be successful. Like I said, it's only in pre-clinical testing. But really, I'm going to watch this program very closely to see how it progresses.

Then finally, one that's not a vaccine itself. mRNA-2416 is not a vaccine. It's a cancer immunotherapy that Moderna is developing. What it does is it injects messenger RNA into tumors and then promotes the production of a protein called OX40L, and basically how that works is by promoting the production of that particular protein on the surface of the tumor, that protein attracts T-cells to attack the tumor. So there's a potential for use of this particular mRNA therapy in solid tumors, particularly including ovarian cancer, and so it's one that I really will watch closely. I didn't pull up their pipeline. I don't have it in front of me. I think that one might be, it's either in phase 1 or phase 2 testing. I think they maybe at phase 2 testing right now. So that's one I would really watch, too.

Orelli: I wonder about getting the mRNA specifically into the tumor cells because you don't want to go and have it expressed in normal tissue.

Speights: That's the trick and that's going to be interesting to see how they pull that off. But if they do, then it's nearly like a heat-seeking missile. They turn the heat on, on the tumor and the missile goes after it.

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