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Look Out: Moderna Could Have an Even Better COVID Vaccine on the Way

By Keith Speights and Brian Orelli, PhD - Mar 24, 2021 at 6:31AM

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The biotech is working on a next-generation vaccine that could provide significant competitive advantages.

Moderna (MRNA 1.01%) already markets a COVID-19 vaccine that's highly effective. The vaccine is also poised to be highly lucrative with the biotech projecting 2021 sales of more than $18 billion. But Moderna could have an even better COVID-19 vaccine on the way. In this Motley Fool Live video, recorded on March 17, Motley Fool contributors Keith Speights and Brian Orelli discuss how Moderna's next-generation vaccine in development could be a winner in the marketplace.

Keith Speights: Moderna, ticker there is MRNA, they announced on Monday that the very first participants have been dosed in a phase 1 study of what the company calls a next-generation COVID-19 vaccine.

So Brian, what do you think investors should know about this next-generation candidate that Moderna has, and do you think it could be an even better vaccine than their current COVID vaccine that's received authorization mRNA-1273?

Brian Orelli: Yeah. They're calling this one mRNA-1283. So I guess that means it's 10 better than 1273.

Speights: [laughs] Hey, at least it's easy to pronounce.

Orelli: Yeah, that's true. [laughs] I think the brand name is Moderna vaccine or [laughs] COVID-19 vaccine or something very simple like that.

So kidding aside, there's two main advantages that I saw in the press release to 1283. One is it's refrigerator stable rather than having to be stored in a freezer. That will be helpful for the developing world, and it may cut down on delivery cost in the developed world a little.

Then I'm not sure, storage wise, not that it's that big of a deal, most pharmacies are setup to have freezer stable thing. So I'm not sure it matter that much for stability, but I think maybe for delivery, it could be helpful.

Then they are testing it as single dose instead of requiring a two-dose regimen like 1273. They are hedging their bets and also testing it as a two-dose regimens. So they're not sold on the fact that you will get a single-dose, but they're definitely testing to see whether a single dose is enough. They're also testing it as a booster for people who have already been vaccinated with 1273 to see if it will increase the protection by adding a third dose.

Speights: Yeah, obviously, it's still really early. They just started this phase 1 study. But my take, Brian, is that this could be very good news for Moderna if everything goes well to potentially have a single-dose COVID vaccine that is stable in standard refrigerators. I think that could give them a real competitive advantage going forward beyond the pandemic, don't you think?

Orelli: Yeah, I agree.

Speights: Yeah. Again, it's still early. Investors shouldn't make any assumptions that everything is going to pan out here, but it seems to be promising and I think the question now is going to be, how long will it take? I don't know that we'll still have emergency use authorization programs in place by the time this particular vaccine makes it through clinical testing.

Orelli: Yes, I would imagine that the FDA is going to be OK with just testing for antibodies and not requiring an actual protection against COVID-19.

Speights: Right.

Orelli: Because it's similar enough to the 1273 that they won't have a problem with just proving that it produces the same level of antibodies and proving it that way.

Speights: Potentially good news on the way for Moderna there.

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