Published on 22.03.2024

Moderna Stock

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Moderna's IPO

On December 7, 2018, Moderna was listed on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol MRNA. Over 26 million shares were offered at a price of $23 per share. Moderna raised over $600 million in capital and was valued at around $7.5 billion. This marked the largest IPO in history for a biotech company.

Corporate strategy and future

While the Covid-19 vaccine is Moderna's first tangible product, the company envisions a bright future for its experimental mRNA technology. It's developing dozens of drugs and vaccines on the same platform. In addition to vaccines against infectious diseases such as Covid-19, HIV and the common flu, Moderna is working on a cancer drug (in collaboration with Merck) and a range of drugs aimed at stimulating the immune system to attack tumours. The biotech company is also developing pills for rare diseases. In total, Moderna has 21 drugs/vaccines in its pipeline. Currently, Moderna's revenue heavily depends on its Covid-19 vaccine, the company's first commercial product.

A major advantage of mRNA-based vaccines is their potential ease of adaptation to variants. Moderna claims it can modify its Covid-19 vaccine within six weeks.

The global vaccine divide

The WHO urged vaccine producers like Moderna to prioritise supplying their vaccines to Covax, the international vaccine program for the developing world. However, Moderna and other vaccine producers earn much more from vaccines for wealthier nations. Therefore, it's questionable whether they will heed the WHO's call. Research from the People's Vaccine Alliance (under the name The Great Vaccine Robbery) indicates that Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are selling their vaccines to rich countries at prices up to 24 times higher than production costs. Vaccine developers are unlikely to ignore such a lucrative opportunity.

History of Moderna

Moderna gained global recognition in late 2020 when research revealed that its Covid-19 vaccine was 94.1% effective against the Covid-19 virus and with minimal side effects. The vaccine received emergency use authorisation in the United States in December 2020. Over a year later, it gained full approval for individuals aged 18 and above in both the US and the European Union. The vaccine is also being used to prevent Covid-19 in other parts of the world.

The Moderna vaccine is based on the Messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. This involves injecting a genetic code of the Covid-19 virus, which prompts the immune system to build a response and thus grants the body immunity. An advantage of the Moderna vaccine over Pfizer's competing vaccine is that it doesn't need to be stored at extremely low temperatures and can be stored at -20 degrees Celsius. In contrast, the Pfizer vaccine requires storage at -70 degrees Celsius.

The vaccine is the outcome of a decade of research and billions of dollars in R&D investments. Moderna was founded by biochemist and investor Noubar Afeyan, an immigrant from Lebanon who moved to Canada with his family in 1975 and later settled in the US. In 2009, he established ModeRNA Therapeutics with funds from a previous successful investment in the company PerSeptive Biosystems, which went public in 1992. The name ModeRNA is a combination of 'modified' and 'RNA'. In 2018, the name was changed to Moderna Inc. Afeyan aimed to commercialise the research of co-founder and stem cell biologist Derrick Rossi. Rossi had been experimenting with mRNA technology for some time. The Covid-19 vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer are the first to utilise this mRNA technology.

Dividends from Moderna

Moderna does not pay dividends. As a relatively young biotech company, it adds all profits to reserves to finance the high R&D expenses associated with developing new drugs.

The information in this article is not written for advisory purposes, nor does it intend to recommend any investments. Please be aware that facts may have changed since the article was originally written. Investing involves risks (e.g., price volatility, currency or liquidity risk). You can lose your invested funds. Consider your knowledge and experience when making investment decisions. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results. Markets are volatile and can fluctuate significantly due to economic, political, regulatory, or other developments.

Sources: Moderna, FD, Fool, Reuters, Bloomberg

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