Moderna's (NASDAQ:MRNA) transformation from a clinical-stage biotech company to a commercial-stage one has been rapid -- and impressive. Only a year ago, Moderna didn't even have products on the market. And now, in its first full quarter of sales, the company's coronavirus vaccine generated $1.7 billion. And resulted in profitability -- $1.2 billion to be exact.
Those first-quarter numbers show Moderna is off to a solid start as a commercial-stage company. But three other numbers in the report are even more important. Why? Because they set the tone for what's to come.
1. Investment in growth
This point actually involves a couple of numbers. First, let's look at overall research and development. Moderna invested four times more in R&D in the first quarter than it did in the same period a year ago. But what's most striking -- and key to development ahead -- is Moderna's interest in digital and artificial intelligence (AI).
The biotech company isn't new to digital. Now, however, it aims to develop digital across areas like clinical trial operations and commercialization from the very start of each new program. This year, Moderna plans to invest nearly three times more in digital than it did in 2020. So, Moderna will increase its investment to $170 million from $60 million.
Moderna also aims to increase investment in automation and AI. CEO Stephane Bancel says the goal is to make AI "part of our DNA." The company just launched its AI Academy to help reach the goal. Bancel says often new hires weren't exposed to AI at previous companies. But he wants AI to be part of all business areas from clinical development to finance.
All of these efforts will help Moderna with speed, efficiency, and precision as it brings candidates through the pipeline.
2. 3 billion doses
The second number of interest is the number of vaccine doses Moderna aims to produce next year. The company now is making investments to increase its capacity to 3 billion doses in 2022. This year, Moderna hopes to produce as many as 1 billion doses.
And Moderna already increased the low end of its 2021 production forecast earlier this year. This progressive increase in capacity is positive. If Moderna hopes to continue winning big contracts -- such as this year's 300 million dose order from the U.S. -- it must have the capacity to handle those orders.
An increase in production capacity also is crucial because it keeps Moderna alongside Pfizer -- its fellow leader in the coronavirus vaccine market. Pfizer and partner BioNTech aim to manufacture 4 billion vaccine doses next year.
3. Advance purchase agreements
This year, Moderna's advance purchase agreements for the coronavirus vaccine represent $19.2 billion in product sales. You might say this sounds great for 2021 -- but why is it good news for 2022?
Here's why: Moderna is in advance purchase discussions for 2022 with all governments that have ordered its vaccine this year. So, there is a possibility those orders may be recurrent.
Companies haven't yet determined the frequency of coronavirus vaccination. But experts have indicated shots likely will be annual. We also should keep in mind that Moderna is working on a booster candidate. The company is trying to bring the booster to market by this fall. And the company also is testing its vaccine on kids and teens. Moderna reported positive data from the teen trial and is talking with regulators about an amendment to its authorization for that age group. The kids' trial is ongoing.
The need for annual vaccination, the need for a booster, and the new age groups to vaccinate should prompt countries to order vaccine doses for 2022 -- and beyond. In fact, Bancel even said in the earnings call that he expects need next year to surpass that of this year.
All of this means the strength of this year's advance purchase agreements is a good sign for revenue --and share price performance -- in 2022.