Moderna trains its mRNA tech on the common cold and a triple whammy against 3 respiratory diseases

Moderna is adding another two vaccine programs to its roster: a combination respiratory candidate and a shot targeting all four endemic human coronaviruses that cause the common cold.

The respiratory combo candidate will go after the three most significant viruses that cause respiratory diseases in adults: SARS-CoV-2, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Moderna has dubbed this triple shot mRNA-1230, and it's designed to be used as an annual booster, according to a Tuesday press release.

As for coronavirus, Moderna is launching a four-pronged attack—this time against viruses that are a significant cause of common respiratory disease worldwide. This shot, mRNA-1287, will not include the SARS-CoV-2 virus that has caused the pandemic worldwide, but instead comprises HCoV-229E, HCoV-NL63, HCoV-OC43, and HCoV-HKU1. These viruses cause 10% to 30% of upper respiratory tract infections in adults.

Moderna President Stephen Hoge, M.D., said the goal is to develop vaccines to address the global burden of respiratory infections to reduce death and illness, eventually combining protection for many different viruses into one yearly shot.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the four viruses Moderna is targeting cause the common cold in adults. Severe and life-threatening infections can also occur in infants, the elderly or the immunocompromised.

Other well-known coronaviruses include MERS-CoV, which causes Middle East respiratory syndrome, and SARS-CoV, which leads to severe acute respiratory syndrome.

With the COVID-19 shot, dubbed Spikevax, being administered around the world, Moderna is wasting no time taking up its second act. The company has announced a slew of clinical program advancements in recent weeks, including dosing in two separate clinical trials for HIV vaccine candidates. Also in the works is a booster program to tackle variants of the original coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

In RSV, Moderna has some stiff competition. Many Big Pharma peers—including Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson—are creeping closer to market with shots to help protect against the virus, which can cause severe infections in children. In addition to the newly announced combo candidate, Moderna is working on an RSV-only shot, called mRNA-1345, which is currently in phase 1 and 2/3 development.