Moderna’s Next-Generation COVID-19 Booster Offers ‘Superior’ Protection Against Omicron

Moderna’s RNAM,
+1.78%
The next-generation experimental COVID-19 vaccine offers more protection against omicron than the original vaccine, and the company aims to make it available to Americans this summer.

What’s different about this vaccine – called a “bivalent” vaccine – compared to currently available boosters is that half of the training targets omicron, including subvariants like BA.2 and BA.2.12 .1 are currently the most dominant strains of the virus circulating in the United States

The other half is still based on the ancestral strain of SARS-CoV-2, which was first detected in China in 2019. All approved and licensed COVID-19 vaccines are based on this strain.

“We are quite confident that this vaccine will provide an advantage even against the family of omicron variants and subvariants,” Moderna President Stephen Hoge said on a call with investors on Wednesday.

Moderna is the first company to share clinical data on a next-generation COVID-19 vaccine. Its stock rose 3.8% in Wednesday trading.

The company said in a press release that the 437 people who participated in the Phase 2/3 clinical trial and who were boosted with the bivalent vaccine had almost twice as many antibodies that protect against omicron per compared to the 337 people who received the currently authorized Moderna. booster.

“It’s a clearly superior booster,” Hoge said.

The data was collected one month after the participants had been vaccinated. Moderna now plans to assess participants’ antibody levels over the next six months.

“We will see if this superiority is better or the same at three months, day 90, and at six months, day 181,” he added. “The real goal is to achieve that six to nine month duration of protection, which gets you through the whole respiratory virus season.”

The company plans to submit the data to the Food and Drug Administration, with plans to move forward with a fall recall campaign in the United States if cleared. It also plans to study a bivalent vaccine in children.

The leaders noted that it is up to US regulators to decide whether young children who have not yet had the opportunity to be vaccinated should receive a vaccine based on the original strain of the virus or switch to a vaccine focused on the omicron.

“It’s actually a precedent,” Hoge said. “If you think about it, that’s what happens with the flu vaccine every year.”

Each year, in February or March, a group of advisers selects the flu strains they think will be dominant this fall, and drugmakers design vaccines using the selected strains.

The data so far “would be more supportive of a flu-like model where you just select a strain and then quickly update manufacturing and do parallel testing,” Hoge said.

Public health experts have been saying for months that developing a new crop of COVID-19 vaccines that target currently circulating strains of the virus is an important step in ensuring people are protected.

“The problem is that the vaccines were developed against the original Wuhan strain,” Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease physician and executive dean of the Emory School of Medicine, told MarketWatch earlier this year. “As the variants evolved, we saw a decrease in the effectiveness of the vaccines. The vaccines remain the same, but the variants change. »

There are several ways to redesign vaccines. A new snapshot might be omicron-specific — Moderna and Pfizer PFE,
-0.92%
both said they were studying this type of vaccine – or a bivalent vaccine, like the one Moderna is developing. The US military is also working on a pan-SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, which essentially targets all variants of this virus and is in the early stages of clinical studies.

Moderna’s stock is down 40.4% so far this year, while the broader S&P 500 SPX,
-1.14%
is down 12.7%.