Astra Data, NovaVax Delay Spur Moderna Vaccine Demand: CEO

Confusion about AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine data and delays in Novavax Inc.’s clinical trials are boosting demand worldwide for Moderna Inc.’s shot, according to that company’s chief executive officer.

Stephane Bancel, speaking in a virtual Piper Sandler event on Wednesday, said governments around the world had approached Moderna seeking more supply of its vaccine in the wake of “confusion” and “disappointment” around clinical trial data reported by AstraZeneca and its development partner, the University of Oxford.

Astra Data, NovaVax Delay Spur Moderna Vaccine Demand: CEO

The U.K.-based duo reported interim data on Nov. 22 that found its shot had prevented 70% of participants from falling ill. But there were some complications involved: The team said a lower initial dose of the vaccine, followed by a full dose, produced a 90% efficacy rate in a smaller set of participants, compared with 62% for two full doses.

The vaccine makers later disclosed that the 90% efficacy came via a different regimen reached accidentally after a manufacturing discrepancy.

Bancel cited several aspects of AstraZeneca’s report that he said was leading government purchasers to call Moderna. They included “a bit of disappointment that it was only 62% [effective] in the full study” and “the realization that the 90% efficacy was in small arm of the study that resulted from a mistake in the schedule.”

He also said that the higher efficacy rate “was in people younger than 55 years old.”

Michele Meixell, a spokesperson for AstraZeneca, declined to comment on Bancel’s remarks.

The company’s CEO, Pascal Soriot, said in a Nov. 27 interview that the vaccine maker may be headed for an additional global trial to help clear up uncertainty surrounding the favorable results in its study.

“Now that we’ve found what looks like a better efficacy we have to validate this, so we need to do an additional study,” Soriot said in his first interview after the data were released. It will probably be another “international study, but this one could be faster because we know the efficacy is high so we need a smaller number of patients.”

Soriot said he didn’t expect the added trial to hold up regulatory approvals in the U.K. and European Union, though U.S. clearance may take longer because regulators there are unlikely to approve the vaccine on the basis of studies conducted elsewhere, especially given the questions over the results.

Moderna shares advanced 5% to $148 at 12:31 p.m. in New York, while AstraZeneca’s U.S. depositary receipts gained 0.9% to $53.44.

Trial Delays

Delays to Novavax’s Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials, as well as the fact that Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi are still far away from reading out late-stage data, also added to the urgency by countries to get a supply of Moderna’s two-dose messenger RNA vaccine. Moderna has demonstrated 94.1% efficacy in preventing symptomatic cases of Covid-19.

“A lot of countries have realized that if they want vaccine in Q1 and maybe in Q2, they actually don’t have six suppliers to go to, but they have two,” he said, referencing Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s comparable mRNA vaccine candidate.

Moderna has already reached deals for supply with the U.S., the European Union, the U.K., Switzerland, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Qatar and Israel, among others.

“Then you have countries that have signed that have not disclosed that they actually have supply from Moderna,” Bancel told Bancel told investors and the press during the Piper Sandler event. The Cambridge-based biotech anticipates being able to manufacture up to a billion doses in 2021.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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