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Moderna raises $500M, readies coronavirus vaccine for clinical testing

Moderna raised $500 million Tuesday after announcing that its coronavirus vaccine is ready for Phase I testing, and providing an update on other candidates in its antiviral vaccine pipeline.

Moderna Inc. (NASDAQ:MRNA) sold 26.3 million shares at $19, a 20% discount from its close of $23.65 on Monday when it proposed the offering after market hours. The stock fell $2.30 (10%) to Tuesday and a further $2.34 (11%) to $19.01 Wednesday.

The first clinical batch of mRNA-1273, the biotech’s COVID-19 (2019-nCoV) vaccine, was completed on Feb. 7 and will be used by NIH in a planned Phase I trial. The RNA-based vaccine encodes for the spike protein on the virus’ surface, which is necessary for membrane fusion and host cell infection. The spike protein has been the target of vaccines against Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Moderna said it took 25 days to design, manufacture and test the vaccine.

The biotech is one of at least 18 companies or academic teams that had disclosed as of Feb. 7 that they are developing new vaccines against COVID-19 (see “The Count of Companies Developing Vaccines for Coronavirus Rises”).

Moderna also gave an update on its lead program. A Phase II trial for cytomegalovirus vaccine mRNA-1647 is expected to read out in 3Q20.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a January letter to investors that mRNA-1647 will be the focus of the company’s first Phase III study. The vaccine will leapfrog over Moderna’s most advanced asset to date: AZD8601, an mRNA encoding VEGF-A in Phase IIa testing for myocardial ischemia that is partnered with AstraZeneca plc (LSE:AZN; NYSE:AZN).

In the letter, Bancel also highlighted infectious disease vaccines as “an important backbone of growth and stability for Moderna” amid a 21-candidate pipeline that spans six treatment paradigms and more than a dozen disease indications (see “Moderna’s Focus on mRNA Vaccines”).

Moderna also announced two new antiviral vaccine candidates on Monday: mRNA-1189 for Epstein-Barr virus, and mRNA-1345 for respiratory syncytial virus.

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VEGF-A - Vascular endothelial growth factor A

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