The Multi-Billion-Dollar COVID-19 Vaccine Game
A week ago today, investors made a $1.3-billion bet on Moderna (NYSE:MRNA), one of the players in the money-making race to come up with a vaccine for COVID-19, when first data from human tests for Moderna’s vaccine came in.
“With today’s positive interim Phase 1 data and the positive data in the mouse challenge model, the Moderna team continues to focus on moving as fast as safely possible to start our pivotal Phase 3 study in July and, if successful, file a BLA (Biologics License Application),” Moderna said in a May 18th press release.
Moderna started the year with a share price of only $19, and it’s never sold a product. As of 22 May, shares closed at $69, and the company's market share was nearly $30 billion. Investors are exposing themselves in order to get a piece of what they hope will be a business doing sales of $10 billion annually--if they get the vaccine.
And it’s a big if in a very high stakes game. Moderna’s insiders know it. That’s why, after raking in $1.3 billion on share sales Monday, they started exiting with massive profits. Moderna shares gained up to 30% Monday, and then its executives sold nearly $30 million in shares on Monday and Tuesday, according to SEC filings cited by CNN.
While share prices reached as high as $87 last Monday, the insiders knew it was on shaky ground--which was quickly confirmed by medical experts chiming in to discuss how truly significant those first data findings were. It’s a loaded playing field, with some 80 groups globally in the vaccine race, with some starting the clinical trial phase--but all are under immense pressure to do in a few months time what would normally take years.
So, where do we stand with a vaccine beyond the money game investors are hedging over at Moderna?
In the UK, drug giant AstraZeneca (AZN.L) has combined forces with Oxford University to provide millions of doses of a vaccine if clinical trials pan out. And while AstraZeneca is oozing with confidence, Oxford has just warned that the trial has only a 50% chance of success.
And if those trials are a success, there are other caveats, as well.
“We are confident the vaccine will work. Question is whether it will completely clear the virus or stop patients from being sick. But being protected from being sick would already be a big plus,” AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot told reporters.
The Australians are getting ready to test a vaccine on ferrets,
Back in the US, the issue is as political as anything else.
Trump has set his goal at developing 300 million doses of a vaccine by January 2021, launching “Operation Warp Speed” as the task force bringing together the federal government, medical and oversight entities and the military.
And the operation has pledged up to $1.2 billion to Oxford and AstraZeneca to speed up the process.
Of course, that prompts another key question: Who will get the vaccine first? And the answer to that is likely: Whoever pays the most for it.
In the meantime, this is also a hacker’s paradise with so much at stake.
Jackers have allegedly targeted the US Department of Health, prompting security agencies to warn that cybercriminals have already made a play for medical facilities associated with COVID-19 vaccine research.
The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) also said that state-sponsored Chinese hackers were targeting US researchers, both state-run and private, in cyberattacks seeking information on vaccines for COVID-19.
"China's efforts to target these sectors pose a significant threat to our nation's response to COVID-19," CISA and the FBI said.
By Josh Owens for Safehaven.com
More Top Reads From Safehaven.com: