Moderna shows promising vaccine
Moderna, the Massachusetts biotechnology company behind a leading effort to create a coronavirus vaccine, announced promising early results from its first human safety tests Monday. The company plans to launch a large clinical trial in July aimed at showing whether the vaccine works.
The company reported that in eight patients who had been followed for a month and a half, the vaccine at low and medium doses triggered blood levels of virus-fighting antibodies that were similar or greater than those found in patients who recovered. That would suggest, but doesn’t prove, that it triggers some level of immunity. The antibody-rich blood plasma donated by patients who have recovered is separately being tested to determine whether it is an effective therapy or preventive measure for covid-19.
Moderna’s announcement comes days after one of its directors, Moncef Slaoui, stepped down from the board to become chief scientist for Operation Warp Speed, a White House initiative to speed up vaccine development. Watchdogs called out Slaoui’s apparent conflict of interest. Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission show Slaoui’s stock options in Moderna are worth more than $10 million with the company’s share price at $66.69. In pre-market trading Monday, Moderna’s stock soared as high as 30 percent to nearly $87.
Moderna also received $483 million from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a federal agency.
“Slaoui’s blatant financial conflicts of interest disqualify him for the role of vaccine czar, unless he commits immediately to global vaccine access conditions over the obvious profit interests of the corporations he serves,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of the Access to Medicines Program at Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called for Slaoui to divest his stock options, tweeting it is “a huge conflict of interest for the White House’s new vaccine czar to own $10 million of stock in a company receiving government funding to develop a covid-19 vaccine.”