What happened

Shares of Moderna (MRNA 1.58%) climbed 6.9% Wednesday after the biotechnology company said it expects to have a COVID-19 booster shot available -- as well as several new vaccine candidates in clinical trials -- later this year.

So what

In late March, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) began a trial to evaluate an experimental vaccine from Moderna designed to defend against a worrisome coronavirus mutation first identified in South Africa. The goal is to develop booster shots to combat new virus variants that are resistant to Moderna's authorized COVID-19 vaccine.

"I want to make sure there are boost vaccines available in the fall so that we protect people as we go into the next fall and winter season in the U.S.," Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC. 

People are working in a laboratory.

Moderna is ramping up its research and development efforts. Image source: Getty Images.

Moderna also said it plans to begin phase 1 studies of its messenger RNA (mRNA) flu and HIV vaccine candidates later in 2021. The biotech currently has 14 different vaccine candidates in clinical trials. 

"We believe we have a unique opportunity to develop new vaccines against viruses hurting people around the world, at a pace that is radically different from what the industry has previously done," Bancel said in a press release. "We are working to further increase our vaccine pipeline and accelerate these important programs." 

Now what 

Interestingly, Moderna intends to explore the possibility of a combination vaccine that would protect against COVID-19 and the flu. As many as 5 million people contract severe forms of the flu each year as existing flu vaccines are typically less than 60% effective. Moderna hopes to improve upon those efficacy rates and offer people the convenience of a single annual booster shot that would protect against both diseases.

"With our mRNA vaccines, we believe we have an opportunity to have a profound impact on human health," Bancel said.