AZN Rejects Media Reports, MRK Quits COVID-19 Vaccine Work, MRNA Sets Eyes On New SARS-CoV-2 Strains

Today’s Daily Dose brings you news about Merck discontinuing its work on COVID-19 vaccines, Moderna advancing its vaccine research to defeat the emerging strains of SARS-CoV-2 virus and AstraZeneca rubbishing German media reports related to AZD1222 vaccine.

Read on…

1. AstraZeneca Slams Media Reports over Efficacy of COVID-19 Jab

AstraZeneca PLC (AZN) has reportedly refuted German media reports that said the efficacy of its COVID-19 vaccine, AZD1222, in people over 65 years is very low and termed them to be “completely incorrect”.

Germany’s business and financial daily The Handelsblatt has reported that AstraZenaeca’s COVID-19 vaccine, developed in partnership with the Oxford University, has an efficacy rate of just 8% in seniors and that it is unlikely to be authorized for use in that age group.

Another German newspaper Bild has claimed that the efficacy of the jab is less than 10%.

Last November, the medical journal Lancet had reported that the vaccine was better tolerated in older adults than in younger adults and has similar immunogenicity across all age groups after a boost dose. The vaccine is said to be 70.4% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 occurring more than 14 days after receiving two doses of the vaccine.

The vaccine is approved for emergency use in the UK, India, Pakistan, Argentina, Mexico, and Thailand. The vaccine is under review by the European Medicines Agency and an opinion on the vaccine by the committee for human medicines (CHMP) is expected on Jan.29, 2021. AstraZeneca may not file for emergency use approval of its vaccine in the U.S. until spring, according to reports.

AZN closed Monday’s trading at $54.01, up 1.43%.

2. Merck Pulls the Plug on COVID-19 Vaccines

Merck (MRK) has decided to pull the plug on its COVID-19 vaccine candidates, V590 and V591, following inferior immune responses that were observed in phase I studies compared to those reported for other COVID-19 vaccines.

The company added that it will focus on its COVID-19 research strategy and production capabilities on advancing two therapeutic candidates, MK-4482 and MK-7110.

MK-7110 (formerly CD24Fc) is found to have a greater than 50 percent reduction in the risk of death or respiratory failure in patients hospitalized with moderate to severe COVID-19, according to interim results from a phase III study. Full results from this study are expected in the first quarter of 2021.

MK-4482, also known as Molnupiravir, is being developed in collaboration with Ridgeback Bio. Molnupiravir is currently being evaluated in Phase 2/3 clinical trials in both the hospital and out-patient settings. The initial efficacy data of the trial is expected this quarter.

MRK closed Monday’s trading at $81.15, up 0.21%.

3. Moderna Committed To Defeat New Variants of SARS-CoV-2

Moderna Inc. (MRNA), on Monday, announced that in invitro studies, its COVID-19 Vaccine, mRNA-1273, is showing activity against emerging strains of SARS-CoV-2, including B.1.1.7 and B.1.351, first identified in the UK and Republic of South Africa, respectively.

While the study showed no significant impact on neutralizing titers against the B.1.1.7 UK variant relative to prior variants, there was a six-fold reduction in neutralizing titers with the South African B.1.351 variant relative to prior variants. The lower titers may suggest a potential risk of earlier waning of immunity to the new B.1.351 strains, noted the company.

The company is planning to test an additional booster dose of mRNA-1273 to study the ability to further increase neutralizing titers against emerging strains beyond the existing primary vaccination series. An emerging variant booster candidate, mRNA-1273.351, is also being developed against the South African variant.

The mRNA-1273.351 is being advanced into preclinical studies and a Phase 1 study in the U.S. to evaluate the immunological benefit of boosting with strain-specific spike proteins.

Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine, mRNA-1273, was approved for emergency use in the U.S. on December 18, 2020, and in the EU on January 6, 2021.

MRNA closed Monday’s trading at $147.00, up 12.20%.

4. Stocks That Gained/Lost the Most

Atossa Therapeutics Inc. (ATOS) closed Monday’s trading at $2.98, up 59.36%.

Accelerate Diagnostics Inc. (AXDX) closed at $12.96, up 47.61%.

Vaxart Inc. (VXRT) closed at $10.05, up 40.76%.

Gritstone Oncology Inc. (GRTS) closed at $23.86, down 11.99%.

Inhibrx Inc. (INBX) closed at $32.46, down 10.87%.

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