Moderna (MRNA -0.50%) wowed investors when revenue and profit once again soared into the billions. They came in at $6.1 billion and $3.7 billion, respectively, in the first quarter. The biotech company has reported earnings in the billions ever since the first quarter of last year -- the first full quarter of its coronavirus vaccine sales.
But what's most important for investors today is a view of what's to come. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel shared some clues during the recent report. And he even pronounced four bold words that could equal billions of dollars in future revenue for Moderna. Let's check out what he had to say.
A vast pipeline
It starts with Moderna's pipeline. The company has 46 programs in development -- and 29 of these are in clinical studies. It's wonderful to have such a vast pipeline. But it's even better if potential blockbusters are in the later stages of development. That indicates revenue may not be too far off -- considering trials are successful, of course.
And here's the good news. By the end of June, Moderna will have four vaccine candidates in phase 3 trials: candidates for flu, coronavirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and cytomegalovirus (CMV). The coronavirus candidate is a booster targeting the original virus as well as the omicron variant. Moderna predicts each of these four candidates could have peak annual sales in the multi-billions. That's great. But here's what's even better:
Because all of these candidates use the same technology as Moderna's approved coronavirus vaccine, they have a "high probability of success," Bancel said in the recent earnings call.
It's one thing to talk about potential sales. But it's another to actually address how likely it is for a candidate to make it to commercialization. Ultimately, the latter is most important. That's because the biggest risk for a drugmaker is a potential product failing during clinical trials.
Reducing the risk
Bancel isn't guaranteeing success. Risk remains. But his words do reduce that risk a bit. He also said the respiratory vaccine candidates -- flu, coronavirus booster, and RSV -- might launch soon. The coronavirus booster could hit the market this fall. And the other two could join it over the next two to three years.
Why is this so important? Because investors have worried about Moderna's revenue once the coronavirus crisis truly wanes. Right now, the vaccine is the company's only commercialized product. It generated nearly 97% of total revenue this past quarter. The rest came from grants and collaborations.
If there's a good chance more blockbusters are on the way, investors may not worry as much about future revenue. One of these potential blockbusters is a coronavirus product. But the other two aren't. So, even if the worst possible scenario happens and coronavirus vaccine/booster revenue drops significantly in the coming years, the company still may have two other products to compensate.
And a fourth product -- the CMV vaccine -- could be close behind. CMV is a common virus that is particularly dangerous for unborn babies and individuals with weakened immune systems. The time it takes to complete the CMV trial has a lot to do with how quickly the company can enroll participants. The coronavirus vaccine trials were particularly easy to enroll considering the pandemic situation. But other potential products often require more time.
Will the shares recover?
So, does all of this mean Moderna shares will recover? They've dropped more than 40% so far this year. The recent news and Bancel's comments should reassure investors about Moderna's future. But I don't expect an immediate rebound. Investors still may want to see more clues from Moderna -- such as phase 3 trial data. And, in general, investors aren't racing to invest in vaccine stocks like they were a year ago.
But that doesn't mean you should avoid Moderna. The company is highly profitable, it has a massive cash level to fund future growth, and it's trading at a rock-bottom price -- about 5.1 times forward earnings estimates. This is a stock to buy now and hold onto for the long term. If Bancel's predictions are right, the investment might pay off in a major way.