Moderna Said Its COVID-19 Vaccine Is 94.5% Effective

Plus, the U.S. surpassed 11 coronavirus cases, PNC is acquiring BBVA’s U.S. assets, and Beyond Meat announced two new burger patties.

Stocks were mixed to start Monday with the Dow adding 350 points, or 1.2%. The S&P 500 gained 0.6%, while the Nasdaq traded 0.1% lower.

Moderna shares are up nearly 7% this morning after the company said preliminary data from its phase three trial shows its coronavirus vaccine is 94.5% effective in preventing COVID-19. According to Moderna, analysis evaluated just 95 confirmed COVID-19 infections among the trials 30,000 participants. Moderna’s news comes just a week after Pfizer and BioNTech said their vaccine candidate was 90% effective at preventing the coronavirus. “Since early January, we have chased this virus with the intent to protect as many people around the world as possible. All along, we have known that each day matters,” said Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel. “This positive interim analysis from our Phase 3 study has given us the first clinical validation that our vaccine can prevent COVID-19 disease, including severe disease.” Moderna also added that there were no “significant” safety concerns, and said the vaccine was generally safe and well tolerated with the majority of adverse events—including pain at the injection site, as well as fatigue, muscle pain, and headaches following the second dose—in participants being labeled as mild or moderate. Bancel added that an efficacy rate of nearly 95% is “a game changer.”

Moderna’s news came on the heels of the U.S. hitting more than 11 million confirmed coronavirus cases. As cases have soared, hospital beds have filled up across the nation with Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, News Jersey, and Minnesota among the states reporting the biggest increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the past week. HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the FDA would move “as quickly as possible” to clear Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines for emergency use, and said the agency has dedicated teams working with both companies to “remove any unnecessary bureaucratic barriers” as the companies work complete authorization applications. “We hope those applications from both Pfizer and Moderna will get in as quickly as possible,” Azar said. “We will independently call those balls and strikes on the data and evidence, but we’re going to do so as quickly as possible, consistent with just making sure the science, the evidence and the law support authorization.”

President Donald Trump acknowledged publicly for the first time this weekend that President-elect Joe Biden won the election, though he said he would not concede. The acknowledgment of defeat came on Twitter and was followed by unsubstantiated claims of election rigging and fraud as his reelection campaign continues to pursue litigation around the nation seeking to slow the process of election certification in key states, or otherwise challenge election processes, which have so far been unsuccessful. People close to the president say he is growing increasingly aware that he cannot overturn the results of the election. Trump’s continued bluster over the outcome of the election is unlikely to stop a rush of policy moves ahead of Biden’s inauguration including further hard-line moves against China, and selling oil drilling rights in the Alaskan wilderness that could complicate Biden’s climate and conservation agenda. 

PNC Financial has agreed to purchase BBVA’s U.S. business for $11.6 billion. BBVA’s U.S. business has $104 billion in assets under management, with 637 branches in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and Texas. The all-cash deal is the second-largest banking acquisition in the U.S. since the 2008 financial crisis. In a statement, BBVA Group Executive Chairman Carlos Torres Vila said the deal was a “very positive transaction for all sides,” adding that “we will have ample flexibility to profitably deploy capital in our markets strengthening our long-term growth profile and supporting economies in the recovery phase, and to increase distribution to shareholders.” PNC Chairman, President and CEO William S. Demchak said, “Our acquisition of BBVA USA will accelerate our growth trajectory and drive long-term shareholder value through a strategic deployment of the proceeds from the sale of our BlackRock investment.”

And Beyond Meat announced two new versions of its Beyond Burger, boosting shares by nearly 1% this morning. The new burgers will offer consumers more choice and will launch nationwide in early 2021. Beyond said that one of the new patties will have 35% less saturated fat than a traditional burger, but will be its juiciest yet. The other will appeal to more health-minded consumers, with 55% less saturated fat than a typical beef burger. The company said that both burgers will have B vitamins and minerals, similar to beef burgers. “I am personally thrilled to introduce this new Beyond Burger platform as it speaks so clearly to what our brand and company stands for,” said Ethan Brown, CEO and Founder, Beyond Meat. “Our commitment is to provide consumers with absolutely delicious plant-based meats that are better for people and the planet, no sacrifice required. These new iterations deliver on this promise, and I am immensely proud of our team’s ability to make such strong advances in taste, juiciness and nutrition through our Rapid and Relentless Innovation program. Just as you can find different varieties of ground beef, consumers will now have more choice to satisfy their individual nutritional needs and preferences.”

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Trillium Therapeutics (NASDAQ: TRIL): Trillium, a clinical stage immuno-oncology biotech reported fiscal third quarter results this morning. “Third quarter was a productive quarter for Trillium,” said Jan Skvarka, the Company’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “We reported encouraging clinical data updates for both TTI-622 and TTI-621, announced a $25 million equity investment from Pfizer, raised $150 million in a follow-on offering, and added Dr. Michael Kamarck to the Board of Directors. After the close of the third quarter, we announced formation of a Scientific Advisory Board, appointment of Dr. Ingmar Bruns as our new Chief Medical Officer, and addition of Mr. Paolo Pucci to the Board of Directors. With close to $300 million in cash, we are well capitalized to embark on a Phase 2 program in heme and solid tumor malignancies in 2021.”