Scientists Raise Questions About Moderna Vaccine in Market-Shaking Report
Source:

Alexandra Sternlicht, Forbes Staff

May 19, 2020

TOPLINE Vaccine experts expressed skepticism about the Covid-19 vaccine trial results announced by biotech company Moderna on Monday, telling the medical publication Stat News that the company has yet to release significant data to support its claim that its drug successfully produced antibodies in human trials.

On Monday Moderna announced in a press release that “positive” data was collected from an early-stage human trial of a coronavirus vaccine, sending its stock valuation and the Dow Jones surging.

But two vaccine experts interviewed by Stat noted that Moderna has yet to publish its studies in scientific journals, and pointed out that the company disclosed results from only eight of the 45 subjects, meaning the majority of the outcomes remains unknown.

The Stat report sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbling in its final hour of trading Tuesday afternoon as skepticism over the vaccine’s readiness hit the market.

The experts also noted the silence from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, Moderna’s partner in developing the vaccine, which declined to comment on the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company’s Monday announcement, which is abnormal for the institute that usually touts its success, according to Stat.

“When a company like Moderna with such incredibly vast resources says they have generated SARS-2 neutralizing antibodies in a human trial, I would really like to see numbers from whatever assay they are using,” John “Jack” Rose, a vaccine researcher from Yale University, told Stat.

It remains unclear whether the Covid-19 antibodies produced by the body as a result of vaccination are as good as antibodies produced by the body from surviving coronavirus.

When Stat asked Moderna about this, they said antibody level information “will be disclosed in an eventual journal article from NIAID.”

CHIEF CRITIC
“It’s a bit of a concern that they haven’t published the results of any of their ongoing trials that they mention in their press release. They have not published any of that,” Johns Hopkins University vaccine researcher Anna Durbin told Stat.

KEY BACKGROUND
On Monday, Moderna announced “positive” results from an early-stage human trial of their preventative COVID-19 vaccine, driving stock market gains, which boosted Moderna’s market cap to a $29 billion valuation—without a single product on the market— according to Stat.

Moderna is expected to launch a phase 2 trial of the vaccine in the coming weeks, with phase three expected to occur in July. Moderna has yet to mention when the vaccine will be available to consumers. Though the company received $500 million in federal cash to bring the vaccine to market, and do so fast, according to Forbes. And the new co-chair of the White House vaccine project is Moncef Slaoui, a former Moderna executive, who reportedly divested his $12.4 million in Moderna stock options on Monday.

Moderna’s vaccine works by using mRNA (“messenger RNA”) that when injected, signals the body to produce Covid-19 antibodies without actually making the person sick from Covid-19. But there are over 100 other companies working to develop a coronavirus vaccine, with eight (including Moderna) at the human trial phase, according to the World Health Organization.
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration will announce on Tuesday that it has signed a $354 million four-year contract with a new company in Richmond, Va., to manufacture generic medicines and pharmaceutical ingredients that are needed to treat Covid-19 but are now made overseas, mostly in India and China.

The contract, awarded to Phlow Corp. by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, meshes President Trump’s “America First” economic promises with concerns that coronavirus treatments be manufactured in the United States. It may be extended for a total of $812 million over 10 years, making it one of the largest awards in the authority’s history.

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