Moderna stock and Novavax stock suffered contrasting fortunes in premarket trading on Wednesday after positive updates for both companies regarding their COVID-19 vaccines.
Moderna stock fell as much as 2.8% after it said that a new version of its vaccine currently under development, which has been tailored to combat the currently dominant Omicron strain, had shown itself more effective against that strain than its original drug. The company said the new vaccine met all its primary endpoints in clinical trials and that it aims to send data from the trials to regulators for review in the coming weeks.
However, a call with analysts after the release failed to give many clues as to how the vaccine might perform against newer sub-variants of the Omicron strain, which are proliferating around the world faster than a pharma company can develop and bring to market its new drugs.
Vaccine stocks have fallen out of favor in recent months as the pandemic has appeared to recede in most developed markets, but the market for booster shots going forward is still expected to be sizable, as clinical evidence still shows that boosters make a significant difference to the body’s immune system response. Any drug that can show heightened effectiveness against newer strains of COVID-19 is likely to enjoy strong demand from national healthcare systems as they roll out booster shots this fall.
Elsewhere, Novavax stock rose over 10% after advisers to the Food and Drug Administration overwhelmingly backed the use of its COVID-19 vaccine, bringing it closer to a commercial launch in the U.S. Approval had appeared to be at risk last week, after advisers to the FDA raised concerns of a possible link to heart inflammation, an issue that has affected a number of patients taking other COVID vaccines.
Last week’s news had caused Novavax stock to drop 20%. Even allowing for Wednesday’s rebound, the stock is still down more than 80% from February 2021 peak, a reflection of the company’s inability to get its drug approved during the most acute phase of the pandemic.