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In a Pandemic, Everyone is a Mark

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This is disgusting but not at all surprising.

Moderna’s stock price skyrocketed as much as 30% on Monday after the biotech company announced promising early results for its coronavirus vaccine. As ordinary investors piled in, two insiders were quietly heading for the exits. Moderna’s chief financial officer and chief medical officer executed options and sold nearly $30 million of shares combined on Monday and Tuesday, SEC filings reviewed by CNN Business show.The sales occurred after Moderna (MRNA) excited Wall Street before markets opened Monday by announcing encouraging vaccine trial results. Moderna’s market value swelled to $29 billion — even though the company has no marketed products. After spiking to as high as $87 on Monday, Moderna’s stock price has since retreated below $70 as medical experts have debated the importance of the early findings.

Huh, funny how that works.

The Times has more, including admitting that it was totally taken in too.

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 for hyping early findings, while those who ignore sketchy data may be blamed for missing the news.

Scientists who take the traditional time to gather and analyze their data for publication in mainstream journals are criticized for sitting on lifesaving information. Upstart websites beat the journals and break the usual rules by publishing unvetted studies, some of dubious quality. And President Trump uses his bully pulpit to promote unproven treatments.

We are all desperate for good news that this will end soon. I am following all the vaccine news I can too. So it hardly should shock us that vile venture capitalists would see a chance to make a quick buck at the cost of the rest of us. Who knows, maybe there is something to the vaccine studies, but they sure aren’t as forthcoming about the details as they were about the chance to cash in.

A classic New Gilded Age move.

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