Moderna Wants the Body to Make Its Own Drugs. Analyst Sees Significant Progress.

PiperJaffray analyst raised his price target for stock in the clinical-stage biotech company to $32 from $30.

PiperJaffray analyst raised his price target for stock in the clinical-stage biotech company to $32 from $30.

New data from the clinical-stage biotech company Moderna Therapeutics have helped confirm the science behind its cutting-edge efforts to fight rare diseases, according to an analyst at PiperJaffray.

The analyst, Edward Tenthoff, increased his price target for the stock to $32 from $30 on Thursday, saying the new information had promising implications for much of Moderna’s platform. Earlier that day, the company announced positive data on a Phase 1 trial of a drug that causes the body to make an antibody that targets the chikungunya virus.

“These data represent a significant milestone as the first time a systemically administered mRNA has predictably produced functional protein in man,” Tenthoff wrote. “Further, these data significantly de-risk Moderna’s emerging orphan disease pipeline.”

Tenthoff maintained an Overweight rating on the stock (ticker: MRNA).

The back story. Moderna is testing the use of synthetic messenger RNA in a range of therapeutic approaches. The company was one of the subjects of a late August cover story in Barron’s. Shares of the company are up 7.4% so far this year, but down 11.8% since the stock started trading in December.

What’s new. The company announced results of two studies, one on the chikungunya antibody and a Phase 1 study of a cytomegalovirus vaccine.

The chikungunya study, which the company highlighted, found that the administration of the drug, called mRNA-1944, caused the test subject’s bodies to produce the desired chikungunya antibody.

“These Phase 1 data represent a significant scientific breakthrough: This study shows for the first time the ability to generate therapeutic levels of a complex protein in humans through systemic administration of an mRNA, essentially instructing the body to make its own medicines,” Moderna’s chief medical officer, Tal Zaks, said in a statement.

In his note, Tenthoff wrote that the mRNA-1944 results helped to reduce the risk of the company’s entire rare-disease program. “These data have direct applicability in orphan diseases caused by deficient or absent proteins,” he wrote.

He also praised the cytomegalovirus data, which was positive. The company said it is advancing the vaccine to a Phase 2 study, and preparing a Phase 3 study.

The promising results came days after Translate Bio (TBIO), another public company specializing in mRNA, which was also a subject of the August cover story, said it was dropping one of its rare-disease programs.

Looking forward. In his note, Tenthoff said that the CMV vaccine could be up for approval by the Food and Drug Adminstration by 2024.

Shares of Moderna traded up 3% on Thursday. They were steady at $16.40 on Friday morning.

Write to Josh Nathan-Kazis at

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Latest Stocks Videos


    Barron's is a leading source of financial news, providing in-depth analysis and commentary on stocks, investments and how markets are moving across the world.

    Learn More