Moderna's Omicron Booster Strategy Lifts Biotechnology ETFs

Moderna (NasdaqGS: MRNA) jumped on Monday after announcing that a higher dosage booster of its vaccine could help mitigate COVID-19 Omicron risks before a tailor-made shot is finalized, lifting biotechnology sector-related exchange traded funds.

On Monday, the Invesco Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBBQ) rose 1.4% and iShares Biotechnology ETF (IBB) gained 1.7%.

Moderna shares climbed 11.8% on Monday. MRNA makes up 13.1% of IBBQ’s underlying portfolio and 10.2% of IBB.

Moderna is expected to benefit financially from the rise of Omicron, with share prices surging since Black Friday when the company announced its new strategy, Business Journal reports.

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said it could take months to develop and ship out a vaccine specifically for the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, but a higher 100-microgram dose of the company’s booster shot could be ready sooner, CNBC reports.

“The higher dose could be done right away but it will be months before the omicron specific variant is ready to ship in massive quantities,” Bancel told CNBC.

Bancel warned that the Omicron variant could be highly infectious, but observations of at least two weeks will be required before determining how much the mutations in the new variant could impact the efficacy of the current vaccines.

“Depending on how much it dropped, we might decide on the one hand to give a higher dose of the current vaccine around the world to protect people, maybe people at very high risk, the immunocompromised, and the elderly should need a fourth dose,” Bancel said.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, also argued that the FDA can move more quickly to approve a new vaccine focused on Omicron.

“I think the FDA is in a position to move very quickly at this point because they understand the basic platform, the manufacturing has been inspected, they understand the risk-benefit of the mRNA platforms generally,” Gottlieb, who is a Pfizer board member, told CNBC.

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