Moderna (MRNA 0.59%) has accomplished a lot in the past year. It made a name for itself in the world's most watched space: coronavirus prevention. It launched its first product: a coronavirus vaccine. And last year, it saw its market value and stock price soar -- by more than 500% and 400%, respectively. Those who've been invested in Moderna since Day 1 clearly hit the jackpot.
Some investors may be wondering if it's time to forget about Moderna and try to find tomorrow's new coronavirus star. It's always a good idea to look for promising newcomers.
But that doesn't mean it's time to forget about today's strong players, and that's exactly what Moderna has become. Even better, the Moderna growth story is far from over. In fact, it's just beginning. And that's why now is a great time to invest in this dynamic coronavirus stock.
Coronavirus vaccine titans
Moderna and rival Pfizer have become coronavirus vaccine titans as they hold the greatest share of the U.S. vaccine market. Moderna has fully vaccinated more than 27 million people there. That compares to 32 million for Pfizer. It's important to remember that Pfizer got a head start: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized its vaccine about a week ahead of Moderna's.
It's fair to say that both players are on equal footing, and that might continue. They both are at about the same stage of clinical testing of their vaccines in kids and teens and both are exploring boosters to better handle strains of concern. But that's OK. They can share the U.S. market and carve out share in the global market among other rivals -- and still end up with billions in revenue.
Let's take a closer look at revenue. Moderna posted more than $199 million in coronavirus vaccine revenue in the fourth quarter -- and the vaccine was only commercialized for two weeks during that period. The company expects to generate at least $18.4 billion this year according to the advance purchase agreements it has signed so far. And earnings-per-share (EPS) estimates for the full year have been rising since the start of the year. The estimate now is at $22.51.
This is a huge deal for a company that didn't have commercialized products (and therefore, product revenue) last year. The next question is: Will this blockbuster level of revenue be recurrent?
Recently, a study showed that Moderna's vaccine produces immunity for at least six months. Earlier in the year, CEO Stephane Bancel said antibody decay indicates Moderna vaccine protection may even last a couple of years.
So we might imagine a vaccination once a year or once every two years. And with the growth of variants of concern, it's very possible an annual booster will become part of the mix. All of this means we probably could expect billions of dollars in coronavirus vaccine -- or booster -- revenue annually or spread across two years.
The whole pipeline
I have even more good news. It's unlikely Moderna will rely uniquely on the coronavirus vaccine over the long term. This program has offered its entire pipeline a boost because it showed Moderna's mRNA technology works.
Moderna's closest-to-market pipeline candidate is a cytomegalovirus (CMV) vaccine. CMV is a common virus that's most problematic for those who are pregnant or have a weakened immune system. Moderna plans to launch a phase 3 trial this year.
The company also has about 20 other candidates in the pipeline. That includes two cancer vaccines and a therapeutic for a heart condition, and they're in phase 2 trials.
Moderna shares have climbed more than 300% over the past year. But at today's level, they're trading at only 5.9 times forward earnings estimates. That's down from more than eight earlier this year. And that was already pretty low.
Considering future revenue -- from the coronavirus vaccine and possibly other products -- Moderna shares aren't expensive today. I would buy this biotech stock right now for potential earnings and share-price growth years down the road.