Once the news broke, Moderna's stock soared by over 25%.
Never mind that it's not known whether the dozens of other people in the study will have the same results. Not as much as you hope. A small biotech that went public only in 2018, Moderna is now valued at $29 billion.
Yet the initial results for Moderna's closely watched vaccine buoyed optimism.
The development of a vaccine usually takes years but the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused more than 315,000 deaths, has given unprecedented urgency to the search. It's also problematic that these results were released by Moderna itself, rather than in a peer-reviewed study or a preprint. He also said the company now can better choose the vaccine amount needed for further experiments.
Moderna stated that the antibody levels seen were on a par with - or greater than, in the case of the 100-microgram dose - those seen in people who have recovered from Covid-19 infection.
The early data are good news, but don't "yet answer the question of whether this will protect humans against infection", said Dr. Kathryn Edwards, a pediatrics professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine who specializes in infectious diseases.
As we've written before, just because we can find antibodies against a virus in a patient doesn't necessarily mean those were the ones that were effective at fighting off the virus. Of the two types, these are the ones you'd really want to see. "But they did not provide a number", he said.
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The stock market reaction, however, seems to reflect an assumption that the vaccine is a done deal, as if the only obstacle to a full-scale global rollout is FDA approval.
The phase 1 study is actually not created to measure effectiveness of the vaccine-it is is focused primarily on safety.
The next phase will involve 600 volunteers and may expand to 1,000 in July. ("At this time, neutralizing antibody data are available only for the first four participants in each of the 25 µg and 100 µg dose level cohorts.") We reached out to Moderna for more information and will update if we hear back. The main risk, he said, was in the logistics in mounting a large randomized trial that suited customary regulatory standards. "I felt as a scientist it was extremely encouraging".
Theoretically, the administered mRNA sequence can cause a cell to make a protein, which in turn could directly treat a disease or could function as a vaccine, which is how Moderna engineered their experimental vaccine that has offered a ray of hope amidst the Coronavirus epidemic that has claimed over 300,000 across the world as of May 19. Antibodies that specifically target spike proteins will attach to Spike and deter it from attaching to your vulnerable cells. Full results for the 37 subjects other than the first eight haven't been disclosed.
The company put out its press release at 7:30 a.m., two hours before the stock market opened, and received quick coverage from most major media outlets.