Moderna’s gamble dazzled investors


The vaccine market has never been hotter. This is an area that drug companies have preferred not to touch on historically and to put money on drugs. This is both because the development takes a long time and the side effects can be too severe and because vaccines that become a public product and are given to everyone, do not guarantee high profits as in the case of drugs. But Corona has changed everything and today no less than 160 companies are working hard to reach the Holy Grail. So far only five have reached the final alignment of advanced clinical trials and may introduce a vaccine as early as the end of the year or early 2021.

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Most of the buzz is coordinated by Modern from Cambridge, but it is actually the youngest and most inexperienced company among its competitors. Although Moderna was the first to start the final phase of the experiments, it is not at all certain that it will actually be the one that will be able to deliver the goods. Opposite her in the race are Pfizer, Astra Zenka and Johnson & Johnson, three veteran and powerful players, with extensive experience in the development and mass production of drugs and vaccines. The fifth actress who also sees the Holy Grail of the vaccine on the horizon is the Chinese Sinwock, who, like Moderna who receives huge budgets from the US administration, receives streams from the Chinese government. All companies, with the exception of Johnson & Johnson, are assisted by a reinforcement player such as the prestigious Oxford University in the case of Astra Zanka and Sinwalk, the American NIH Institute, one of the world’s leading medical research bodies, working with Modern and the German biomedical company BIONTECH.

Beyond the obvious health benefit of vaccine development, what is the best bet for someone who also wants to benefit from the financial contribution? Judging by the stock’s behavior, Moderna is the safe bet, which has already boosted its share four times since the beginning of the year. The most common thing of all is that this is in fact a young and inexperienced biomed company compared to the other competitors in the race, which, although it develops intriguing and promising vaccines, has so far in its ten years of existence not received approval from any of them. Some of the developments in which she invested quite a bit of effort and resources even failed. Until the eruption of the corona alongside the great promise, especially of cancer vaccines, which at the time made modern the largest biotech issue in history held at a market value of $ 7.5 billion, quite a few question marks hovered over its ability to realize it.

Moreover, the jump in the modern share was based entirely on expectations for the development of the vaccine and its effects on the company’s results, which to date have not recorded any revenue. Although its vaccine, if successful, will be more expensive than the competitors’ vaccine – $ 60 for the two required doses compared to $ 40-20 given by the permit in one dose, the current value of $ 30 billion already embodies these numbers.

Even if Moderna receives the long-awaited approval for the vaccine, it is precisely then that its share may fall, since the promise has been fulfilled. Those who understand this well are the company’s senior executives who have been pulling quite a few headlines and fire in the US in recent months over a massive sale of shares that has already reached a cumulative amount of $ 200 million. For example, Tal Zacks, the Israeli chief medical officer $ 40 million, with his last $ 1.5 million cash meeting being recorded on the very day that Modern announced the start of the third phase of clinical trials.

Several vaccines in parallel

The actions of modern people do not necessarily indicate their lack of confidence in society’s ability to fulfill the promise of a vaccine, but rather a desire to disperse the risks and the human desire to take advantage of the phenomenal jump in the stock. This is based on the understanding that modernity has no more products and therefore failure to develop the current vaccine may be catastrophic.

Unlike modernity, the other companies that are in the race after the vaccine are not talking about an “all or nothing” story, but a nice bonus and no less a reputation that will join an existing product basket. The shares of Pfizer, Astra Zanka and Johnson & Johnson have hardly risen since the beginning of the year and are therefore relatively much cheaper than modern ones. Although Johnson & Johnson is at a slightly less advanced stage than the rest, it was she who received approval for the Ebola vaccine that many see as similar to Corona and can use the same bioreactors for the new vaccine.

(Illustration) (Illustration) Photo: AFP

In any scenario, it is likely that the regulators will not want to put all the eggs in one basket, so some vaccines will enter the market that will prove to be most effective with the fewest side effects. It is also important to remember that the mass production process of a vaccine is not as simple as the logistical distribution chain, as vaccines are often very sensitive to heat, especially RNA vaccines that require deep freezing conditions and lose their effectiveness if not stored under exact conditions.

The dispersal scenario among many companies is getting stronger in light of recent publications that corona can be contracted even after spot antibody development, which means the world population will have to be vaccinated against corona on an annual basis similar to the flu.

The development of a vaccine and its approval by the US Food and Drug Administration, which is considered the regulator that sets the tone worldwide, is similar to the drug development process. In preclinical stages, the effect on animals is examined and after safety is proven, the companies move to human clinical trials. Three phases: The first phase, conducted among a small sample of experimenters, is mainly designed to prove safety in use.The second phase, which also tests hundreds of experimenters, also tests the effectiveness.The third and crucial phase, which already includes a representative sample of thousands of patients, is tested. Antibodies and protect against infection.

A new generation of vaccines

What is happening today is an acceleration in development processes, with companies receiving exceptional approvals to carry out several clinical phases simultaneously. Some have even started producing the vaccine although it is not yet known if it will be proven to be effective and safe. Under pressure from governments that are already signing purchase agreements, as the US, UK and Israel have done, companies prefer to build up stocks on the understanding that a huge number of vaccines will be needed to eradicate, or at least moderate, the plague.

The existing vaccines on the market are based on a killed or attenuated virus or in more innovative cases on a synthetic version of it (recombinant). Acceleration in development is also possible thanks to RNA-producing technology, a molecule that plays an important role in DNA construction. Once inserted into the human body, it will be used to build viral cells. Once the body produces these cells, its immediate response is the production of antibodies, and thus the person is vaccinated.

To date, no vaccine based on this technology has been approved for use. There has been no such vaccine that has proven effective, although at this level the corona seems to have slowed down and the American “tsar” Dr. Anthony Pauchi has already said that he will also be content with 50% success against a sham vaccine.

Moderna, meanwhile, is delivering the goods after setting a historic record of vaccine build-up in just 63 days and has already begun vigorously testing Seattle volunteers. This also led to the injecting of a whopping $ 1 billion, half of it by the U.S. administration to remove any logistical obstacle that stood in its way. Pfizer also gambled on RNA technology and announced that day with Moderna about moving to the third phase of clinical trials. The rest of the companies are based on the method of injecting a weakened or killed virus.


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