Moderna: Too Early to Tell Whether Flu Vaccine Has Differentiating Features

Moderna (MRNA) is the covid era’s big success story, one which is entirely built on the achievements of its Covid-19 vaccine mRNA-1273. However, the company’s first major attempt to add more arrows to the quiver has received a lukewarm reception.

Last week, shares trended south following the release of interim Phase 1 data for the company’s quadrivalent vaccine, mRNA-1010. Moderna highlighted the fact the flu shot generated antibodies against four strains of influenza, yet investors cottoned on to the results being no better than Sanofi’s Fluzone HD – an enhanced flu vaccine given to older adults. In fact, although no adverse events were noted, signs are that mRNA-1010 might have an inferior tolerability profile.

Going by the reaction, J.P. Morgan’s Cory Kasimov says the initial look is “clearly not meeting relatively high prevailing Street expectations.”

However, the analyst notes it is still early days, with “larger head-to-head” studies required to “better elicit points of differentiation.” With a 500 patient Phase 2 study fully enrolled which includes a “direct active comparator” and initial results set to get a readout early next year, it won’t be long until a more conclusive picture emerges.

Although management has emphasized the goal with the vaccine has been to exhibit results on par with approved SOC (standard of care) offerings and “build from there,” Kasimov notes that given the share price drop – down by 5.5% in the subsequent session – this thinking “doesn’t appear to be aligned with investor expectations.”

For now, Kasimov does not include the program in his assessment and awaits “more robust Ph2 data to better inform the intermediate-term outlook for the asset.”

Therefore, the analyst rates MRNA a Neutral, while his $165 price target implies ~39% downside from current levels. (To watch Kasimov’s track record, click here)

Kasimov’s rating aligns with his colleagues’ overall take; based on 6 Buys, 5 Holds and 3 Sells, the analyst consensus rates this stock a Hold. However, the paths diverge on where the share price is heading; in contrast to Kasimov’s downbeat view, going by the $294.46 average target, shares will see 8.5% upside over the coming months. (See Moderna stock analysis on TipRanks)

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analyst. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.

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