Moderna expands COVID-19 vaccines to treat related illnesses

CDC data shows more than 217M Americans are fully vaccinated against coronavirus

Moderna said Tuesday that it would expand its COVID-19 vaccine to treat related illnesses

The biotech company announced the extension of its "mRNA pipeline" with two development programs that build on the company's experience with the "Spikevax" vaccine. 

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The programs include a combination respiratory vaccine candidate and a new initiative against all four of the endemic human coronaviruses (HCoV). 

The respiratory combination vaccine program will be launched to target the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the influenza virus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). 

Dr. Salma Elfaki holds a vial of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a Moderna clinical trial for adolescents being conducted by Accel Research Sites with Nona Pediatric Center in Orlando on Sept. 25, 2021. ( Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The new combination respiratory vaccine candidate (mRNA-1230) is envisioned as an annual booster targeting the diseases. 

In addition, Moderna explained the need for a program to develop a vaccine candidate (mRNA-1287) against endemic human coronaviruses.

The vaccine-maker noted that the coronaviruses are a significant cause of respiratory disease worldwide, with HCoV-229E, -NL63, -OC43, and -HKU1 accounting for approximately 10% to 30% of upper respiratory tract infections in adults.

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Moderna highlighted that respiratory tract infections disproportionately impact older adults, who experience more severe illness and greater mortality. 

"We are pleased to add a combination respiratory vaccine candidate against three of the leading causes of respiratory disease in older adults, and a vaccine against all four of the endemic human coronaviruses as part of our strategy to address the substantial global burden of respiratory infections," Moderna President Dr. Stephen Hoge said in a statement. "Our goal is to develop vaccines to address respiratory infections, and eventually combine many into a single annual booster vaccine with the aim of reducing the significant morbidity and mortality caused by these viruses."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 217.1 million Americans have been fully vaccinated and 96.7 million have received a booster shot. 

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Moderna asked the Food and Drug Administration last week to authorize a fourth shot of its COVID-19 vaccine as a booster for all adults, in a broader request than that of rival company Pfizer.