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Moderna Shares Off on Report Coronavirus Trial Delayed

Moderna MRNA shares were lower after a news report said the biotech was delaying the start of a Phase III trial of its experimental coronavirus vaccine

Shares of the Cambridge, Mass., company at last check were down 5.4% to $58.25.

The healthcare website Stat News said Moderna was making changes to the trial plan, or protocol, which has pushed back the expected start date of the Phase III study, according to investigators who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Investigators at the University of Illinois at Chicago had previously said Moderna’s trial would begin July 9.

“My understanding was that they wanted to get the first vaccines given in July, and they say they’re still committed to do that,” one investigator said, according to Stat News. “As best I can tell, they’re close to being on target for that.”

Moderna posted a statement on Twitter saying that “the trial is still expected to begin in July and we expect to be the first to start a Phase 3 trial.”

The company said that it has “worked closely” with the National Institutes of Health, which is funding the Phase III study, “to align the final protocol in order to begin the trial on time.”

Last week, Moderna and drug-delivery specialist Catalent unveiled a joint effort to release Moderna’s coronavirus-vaccine candidate this quarter.

In June, Moderna said the trial’s primary aim will be to prevent the coronavirus, while secondary goals include prevention of severe cases of the disease that require hospitalization, and prevention of infection by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes covid-19.

The company said it has made enough vaccine to start the Phase III trial. Moderna said it intended to enroll 600 healthy participants across two groups of adults ages 18 to 54 years, and older adults ages 55 years and above.

Moderna did not immediately respond to a request for comment.