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Moderna Seeks To Develop Variant-Specific Boosters For COVID-19 Mutations Like Omicron

CAMBRIDGE (CBS) – Moderna said it's already testing its current vaccine on the B.1.1.529 (Omicron) variant of COVID-19 and has a plan in place to create a booster for the variant if needed.

Moderna said the Omicron variant has mutations that may increase the transmission rate and could accelerate waning immunity.

The Cambridge-based biotechnology company has been working on a strategy to handle variants if the current vaccination and additional booster dose does not protect against emerging strains such as Omicron.

The strategy includes a higher dose of the booster for healthy adults, which Moderna is already testing against Omicron. It is also studying two booster candidates that have been designed to anticipate and provide protection against mutations in COVID-19. The company is also looking to develop variant-specific candidates for variants that are of specific concern.

Moderna said it has been able to advance additional boosters to clinical testing in 60-90 days.

"From the beginning, we have said that as we seek to defeat the pandemic, it is imperative that we are proactive as the virus evolves," said Moderna's Chief Executive Officer Stéphane Bancel. "We have three lines of defense that we are advancing in parallel: we have already evaluated a higher dose booster of mRNA-1273 (100 µg), second, we are already studying two multi-valent booster candidates in the clinic that were designed to anticipate mutations such as those that have emerged in the Omicron variant and data is expected in the coming weeks, and third, we are rapidly advancing an Omicron-specific booster candidate (mRNA-1273.529)."

There have been no reported cases of Omicron in the U.S.

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