Moderna Analysts See Positives In Coronavirus Readout As Focus Shifts To Pivotal Phase 3 Study

Moderna Inc MRNA shares were bulldozing their way toward record highs Wednesday in reaction to the publication in the New England Journal of Medicine of detailed interim Phase 1 data for mRNA-1273, its SARS-CoV2 vaccine candidate.

The Moderna Analysts: BofA Securities analyst Geoff Meacham reiterated a Neutral rating on Moderna shares and raised the price target from $75 to $85.

Morgan Stanley analyst Matthew Harrison has an Overweight rating and $90 price target.

Moderna's Stock Already Reflects Phase 3 Success, BofA Says: Despite the concrete efficacy data released by Moderna, the debate regarding mRNA-1273's efficacy will continue until the Phase 3 readouts this fall, BofA analyst Meacham said in a Wednesday note.

The neutralizing antibody geometric mean titer, or GMT, was 2.3 times higher than convalescent sera seven days after the second dose compared to the 2.8 times reported by the Pfizer Inc. PFE-BioNTech SE – ADR BNTX combo for their mRNA vaccine earlier this week, the analyst said.

The decline in GMT after day 43 for Moderna raises questions regarding the durability of protection, he said. 

The Phase 2 readout, which is due as early as mid-August, is likely to be insignificant, Meacham said, adding that he expects the company to say the 100mcg dose that has been selected for the Phase 3 study strikes the best balance of efficacy and safety.

Moderna's Phase 3 study could end early if the 60% efficacy bar the company has set for the vaccine candidate is reached at either of two interim analysis points or at the final analysis, the analyst said. 

The Phase 3 results are a bigger catalyst, he said. 

"With an mRNA-1273 approval only contributing $18B to our valuation, we see the current share price as already reflecting phase 3 success." 

See also: Moderna Analyst: Coronavirus Vaccine Will Get Approved, Clock $5B+ In Orders Over Next Few Years

Morgan Stanley Says Moderna's Initial Data Is Strong: All the participants who were evaluated showed a neutralizing antibody response, which is important for delivering Phase 3 efficacy data that meets the FDA's hurdle of more than 55% protection from symptomatic infection, Morgan Stanley's Harrison said in a Tuesday note.

"We see this as strong initial data for mRNA-1273 and expect MRNA higher on these results which confirm the initial PhI press release," the analyst said.

The vaccine candidates from both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech elicited multifold improvements in neutralizing antibody titers above convalescent serum, he said.

As the latter's vaccine candidate is working against the receptor-binding domain of the virus, it is easier for it to elicit response than Moderna's, which is working against the full-length spike protein, according to Morgan Stanley. 

SVB Leerink On Encouraging Immune Response, Worrying Reactogenicity: It is encouraging to see another COVID-19 vaccine showing impressive neutralizing antibody responses to the intended S1 spike protein, SVB Leerink analyst Geoffrey Porges said.

The analyst sees the increasing titer of neutralizing antibodies with increasing dose of vaccine and after boosting as positive signals.

Along with the encouraging immune response results, the analyst highlighted the significant reactogenicity, with dose dependent increases in rates of febrile reactions, and local reactions.

"Using the publications' own convalescent sera panels as controls, we aren't inclined to conclude that either the Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines construct is better, or more immunogenic, than the other at this stage," Porges said. 

MRNA Price Action: At last check, Moderna shares were jumping 11.57% to $83.72.

Related Link: Moderna Strikes Another Coronavirus Vaccine Manufacturing Deal To Ensure Overseas Supply

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