Moderna Inc MRNA is one of the frontrunners in a crowded race to develop a vaccine against the novel coronavirus. Despite Moderna's strong positioning, an analyst at SVB Leerink said he harbors some concerns over the company's vaccine program.
The Moderna Analyst: Mani Foroohar maintained an Underperform rating on Moderna with a $41 price target.
The Moderna Takeaways: Moderna continues to stick with a November timeline for an interim Phase 3 readout, even with the FDA's tightened emergency use authorization guidelines, Foroohar said following a fireside chat Wednesday with Moderna President Stephen Hoge at the SVB Leerink Vaccine Forum.
Even with the optimistic timeline, SVB Leerink is concerned about the slower event rate versus lead competitor Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE/BioNTech SE – ADR (NASDAQ: BNTX), the analyst said.
Moderna plans an interim analysis after 53 COVID-19 cases are reported, as opposed to Pfizer/BioNTech's 32, he said.
"Design of interim analyses favors BNT162b2 to hit on efficacy earlier than mRNA-1273, assuming a similar level of efficacy between the two vaccines."
Secondly, increasing competition is a pushback, Foroohar said.
Johnson & Johnson JNJ announced Tuesday the initiation of a large scale Phase 3 study, joining Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca plc AZN.
Vaccine makers, including Moderna, may be stymied by public hesitance around vaccines developed in an accelerated fashion, the analyst said.
It will take time to build societal trust in these vaccines in order for them to be adopted broadly, he said, citing Hoge.
Moderna said it expects to present data from the Phase 3 COVE study in as close to real time as possible, according to SVB Leerink.
Additionally, complete data disclosure will help doctors and nurses recommend vaccination for appropriate patients as confidently as possible once a shot is available, Foroohar said, citing Moderna.
The challenges for any vaccine in demonstrating differentiation versus others on a very rapid development timeline is also a concern for vaccine makers, the analyst said.
MRNA Price Action: At last check, Moderna shares were slipping 3.01% to $65.14.
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