Moderna Posts Surprise Q4 Profit Despite Steep COVID-19 Sales Decline

Moderna building

Pictured: Entrance to Moderna's building in Massachusetts/iStock, hapabapa

Moderna announced in its fourth-quarter and full-year 2023 earnings report on Thursday that it secured a profit of $217 million in the quarter, beating Wall Street expectations despite a sharp drop in COVID-19 sales.

The biotech credited its surprise profit in the fourth quarter to cost-saving measures and unexpected deferred payments connected to its work with Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance. Moderna reported $600 million in deferred revenues in the quarter.

On an earnings-per-share basis, Moderna posted positive profit of 55 cents, whereas analysts had expected a loss of 97 cents, according to Reuters. The company’s stock rose 8% in premarket trading Thursday in response to its financial results.

Still, the slowdown in COVID-19 vaccination rates hit Moderna hard. The company reported total revenue of $2.8 billion in the fourth quarter, nearly half of its $5.1 billion revenue during the same period in 2022. Even with the deferred payments from Gavi, Moderna’s product sales in the most recent quarter tanked 43% versus the same period the prior year.

For all of 2023, Moderna lost $4.7 billion. In 2022, the company reported a net income of $8.4 billion.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement that “2023 was a year of transition for Moderna” as it tried to adapt to the post-COVID market. “Our development team made significant advancements across infectious diseases, oncology and rare diseases, while our commercial team increased our COVID-19 market share in the U.S.”

In the past year, Moderna has worked to diversify its pipeline as it moved away from a rapidly shrinking COVID-19 market. This effort has been spearheaded by mRNA-1345, its mRNA-based vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). In July 2023, the company announced that it had made global regulatory filings for the investigational shot, including a Biologics License Application with the FDA.

In Thursday’s earnings report, Moderna revealed that the FDA’s target action date for mRNA-1345 is on May 12, 2024, and that it expects regulatory approvals for mRNA-1345 in the first half of the year.

Moderna is also advancing a cancer vaccine, dubbed mRNA-4157, in partnership with Merck. In December 2023, the partners posted positive three-year Phase IIb data demonstrating that mRNA-4157—plus the blockbuster PD-1 blocker Keytruda (pembrolizumab)—could elicit a clinically meaningful improvement in recurrence-free survival in patients with resected high-risk melanoma.

The partners are continuing to enroll patients in Phase III trials in this indication and plan to expand into other tumor types in 2024, according to Moderna.

Looking forward to 2024, Moderna on Thursday reiterated its full-year sales guidance of around $4 billion.

Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. Reach out to him on LinkedIn or email him at tristan@tristanmanalac.com or tristan.manalac@biospace.com.

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