When the biotech company Moderna announced early on Monday morning positive results from a small, preliminary trial of its coronavirus vaccine, the company’s chief medical officer described the news as a “triumphant day for us.”
Moderna’s stock price jumped as much as 30 percent. Its announcement helped lift the stock market and was widely reported by news organizations, including The New York Times.
Nine hours after its initial news release — and after the markets closed — the company announced a stock offering with the aim of raising more than $1 billion to help bankroll vaccine development. That offering had not been mentioned in Moderna’s briefings of investors and journalists that morning, and the company chairman later said it was decided on only that afternoon.
By Tuesday, a backlash was underway. The company had not released any more data, so scientists could not evaluate its claim. The government agency leading the trial, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had made no comment on the results. And the stock sale stirred concerns about whether the company had sought to jack up the price of its stock offering with the news.
The Moderna episode is a case study in how the coronavirus pandemic and the desperate hunt for treatments and vaccines are shaking up the financial markets and the way that researchers, regulators, drug companies, biotech investors and journalists do their jobs.
Drug companies accustomed to releasing early data to attract investors and satisfy regulators suddenly find themselves accused of revealing too much, or not enough, by a new, broader audience. Journalists may be scolded