Biotechnology company Moderna announced that they have data to support their belief that their COVID-19 vaccine is effective against variants of SARS-CoV-2 identified in South Africa and the United Kingdom.

In a statement released on Monday, January 25, the company said neutralization studies conducted in collaboration with the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of individuals vaccinated with their vaccine (mRNA-1273) revealed that the vaccine can effectively neutralise the new variants.

“Vaccination with the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine produced neutralizing titers against all key emerging variants tested, including B.1.1.7 and B.1.351, first identified in the UK and Republic of South Africa, respectively.

“The study showed no significant impact on neutralizing titers against the B.1.1.7 variant relative to prior variants. A six-fold reduction in neutralizing titers was observed with the B.1.351 variant relative to prior variants. Despite this reduction, neutralizing titer levels with B.1.351 remain above levels that are expected to be protective.”

They continue: “The two-dose regimen of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine at the 100 µg dose is expected to be protective against emerging strains detected to date.”

However, to be extra cautious, Moderna plans to test an additional booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine to study the ability to further increase neutralizing titers against emerging strains beyond the existing primary vaccination series.

The company is also advancing an emerging variant booster candidate (mRNA-1273.351) against the South African variant into preclinical trials and a Phase 1 study in the U.S. to evaluate its benefit of boosting with strain-specific spike proteins.

Moderna expects that its mRNA-based booster vaccine (whether mRNA-1273 or mRNA-1273.351) will be able to further boost neutralizing titers in combination with all of the leading vaccine candidates.

“As we seek to defeat the COVID-19 virus, which has created a worldwide pandemic, we believe it is imperative to be proactive as the virus evolves. We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine should be protective against these newly detected variants,” said Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna.

“Out of an abundance of caution and leveraging the flexibility of our mRNA platform, we are advancing an emerging variant booster candidate against the variant first identified in the Republic of South Africa into the clinic to determine if it will be more effective to boost titers against this and potentially future variants.”

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