Moderna wins bragging rights as it kick-starts first experimental coronavirus clinical trial

Moderna shares shot up a massive 18% after-hours last night on the fairly standard news that it was about to start a drug trial.

But, given the concern over the disease's spread, it’s less surprising when you see it's for a treatment for COVID-19, the novel coronavirus currently spreading around the globe.

A growing number of biotechs and now pharmas are getting involved in trying to help contain the spread and/or create a vaccine, but the pace of progress from Moderna is outstripping others.

Moderna is also set to become the first biopharma to start a human trial of an investigational drug against COVID-19. (Other preexisting meds, or those in development for other areas are already being tested against the virus.)

Moderna’s hope lays in its messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine, mRNA-1273, which has been shipped out to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) for a phase 1 test set to start as early as April.

This will be tested on several dozen healthy patients to assess safety and immune response.

“I want to thank the entire Moderna team for their extraordinary effort in responding to this global health emergency with record speed. The collaboration across Moderna, with NIAID, and with CEPI has allowed us to deliver a clinical batch in 42 days from sequence identification,” said Juan Andres, chief technical operations and quality officer at Moderna.

“This would not have been possible without our Norwood manufacturing site, which uses leading-edge technology to enable flexible operations and ensure high quality standards are met for clinical-grade material.”

On the news (which was first published by The Wall Street Journal), the unicorn biotech, which is predominately an early-stage company with much to prove, saw its shares shoot up more than 18% after-hours to around $19 a share, down from its heights of more than $24 at the start of the month (which then led to a public offering of its common shares).