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COVID vaccine execs hyped vague data to cash in $90M in stock, watchdog says

Enlarge / Moderna Inc. headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.Getty | Bloomberg

An anti-corruption watchdog is pressing the US Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate executives of the biotech company Moderna after they cashed in about $90 million in company shares days after promoting “positive" but vague data from its early COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial.

The watchdog group, Accountable.US, called the timing of the trades suspicious and questioned whether executives coordinated their stock sales prior to the data release.

In a letter to the SEC that was released to CBS Moneywatch, Accountable.US President Kyle Herrig wrote, "This misconduct was particularly egregious because it involved not only financial fraud and manipulation of the financial markets, but also because it exploited widespread fears surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.” In all, the executives' exploitation served to "boost the company's value, as well as their own bank accounts.

“I strongly urge the SEC to investigate these matters," Herrig wrote.

Moderna is considered a front-runner in the race for a vaccine against the pandemic virus, SARS-CoV-2. The company is testing a vaccine involving mRNA, an unproven vaccine platform that is not used for any existing vaccines. However, Moderna became prominent in the pandemic after partnering with the National Institutes of Health to design and test its vaccine. It was the very first vaccine to go into clinical trials, which began March 16.

On May 18, the company sent out a press release saying that eight trial participants had developed neutralizing antibodies at levels that mimicked those seen in people who recover from a SARS-CoV-2 infection. Moderna painted the results as “positive,” but experts were quick to note that the press release didnt contain any data and that the scant information provided is uninterpretable in terms of assessing the efficRead More – Source

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