Shares of Moderna Inc were up by 4.9% in pre-market trading on Feb. 25 as the biotechnology company announced new capital investments to enable additional production of the COVID-19 vaccine at its manufacturing facilities. Moderna expects the investments to enable it to increase capacity to approximately 1.4 billion doses at 100 µg per dose by 2022.
The capital investments by Moderna (MRNA) will also enable production of potential vaccine booster doses for emerging variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. MRNA expects it would probably be a year before additional production capacity is available.
Moderna’s CEO, Stephane Bancel said, “…there will continue to be significant demand for our COVID-19 vaccine and we now are committed to materially increasing our manufacturing capacity. Because of the high efficacy of our COVID-19 vaccine and our ability to quickly develop variant vaccines to help boost the immune system of vaccinees, there is increased demand.”
“We are investing in this additional capacity to help us increase production and allow for flexibility in manufacturing potential vaccine boosters to address emerging variants of the virus,” Bancel added.
The company also plans to increase its initial manufacturing base plan of 600 million doses this year to 700 million doses globally. MRNA has shipped 60 million doses globally to-date, including 55 million doses to the US government.
The company also announced that it has shipped the vaccine candidate, (messenger ribonucleic acid) mRNA -1273.351, against the South African COVID-19 variant, B.1.351, to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a Phase 1 clinical trial.
Furthermore, the company is experimenting with booster doses of 50 µg to target existing and emerging strains of the virus. (See Moderna Inc stock analysis on TipRanks)
Last week, Morgan Stanley analyst Matthew Harrison raised his price target to $215 from $150 and reiterated a Hold on the stock . Harrison forecasted 850 million COVID-19 vaccine doses this year, up from his prior estimate of 700 million. He also sees the opportunity for more sales of the vaccine’s booster doses over the mid-term and believes that there is a good chance of demand increasing for MRNA’s COVID-19 booster vaccines.
The rest of the Street is cautiously optimistic on the stock with a Moderate Buy consensus rating based on 6 Buys, 4 Holds and 2 Sells. The average analyst price target of $172.09 implies around 19% upside potential to current levels.