Moderna Inc. shares slid 3.5% on Friday as unease mounted about the biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine trial fueled by ongoing insider shares sales and an enrollment slowdown.
With late-stage trial results weeks away, the stock has shed more than a third of its value from record highs in mid-July. Still, shares have more than tripled since the beginning of the year, prompting several insiders to cash out.
Chief Executive Officer Stephane Bancel, who found himself a newly minted billionaire as a result of the pandemic, disposed of an additional 18,000 shares this week, including some tied to entities controlled by him.
The sales are just the latest in a string of transactions that started in February as insiders have taken advantage 10b5-1 trading plans that allow sales at predetermined times or prices. While the trading plans are legal, they have faced criticism over letting executives skirt insider trading laws. New criticism of the sales cropped up in an NPR report Friday, which said key players at the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company have sold about $90 million in stock since June and drew attention to changes to Chief Medical Officer Tal Zaks’s trading plan in January.
The continuous sales aren’t a good look ahead of the company’s upcoming Covid-19 results when investors would want to see confidence from the company’s management.
A CNBC report also likely hit the stock Friday, pointing to a slowdown in enrollment to be sure enough of those hardest hit by the pandemic, namely Black Americans, were taking part in the study. Moderna is racing alongside more experienced drugmakers like AstraZeneca Plc in partnership the University of Oxford as well as Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech SE to get out late-stage data in thousands of patients showing vaccines will work against the virus.
Other vaccine testers — which have seen three and four digit percentage gains this year — also tumbled with the broader market on Friday. Novavax Inc. plunged 9.8%, Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. fell 2.8% and Vaxart Inc. dropped 5.2%.