Amid growing concerns over the potential threat of monkeypox, executives from Moderna said Wednesday they have initiated a research program to consider whether the company could create a monkeypox vaccine with mRNA technology.
"We're obviously very aware of the monkeypox concern and obviously very sensitive to recent announcements," Moderna President Stephen Hoge said during an investor call.
He went on, "We did initiate a research program. We are tracking that very closely and obviously, given the recent public health announcements and increasing concern about availability of vaccine supply, we are beginning to look at what it would take for us to use our platform and to provide a monkeypox vaccine — both [to] intervene in the current and the current epidemic but also to try and address long-term issues of supply in this public health threat."
Domestically and globally, officials have been vocal in their concern that there are not enough monkeypox vaccines to address the emerging crisis. With demand increasing, officials from the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) have reported that a total of 1.1 million doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine for monkeypox, a two-dose regimen, will be allocated to states and jurisdictions across the country. Approximately 1.5 million Americans are currently considered eligible for vaccination, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told ABC News last month.
Moderna will continue to track the monkeypox virus "very closely" given the recent increase in cases domestically and globally and discussions remain pre-clinical, Hoge said. No decision on whether the company will move forward with the creation of such a vaccine has been made, he noted.
"Our platform is pretty well established and our ability to rapidly scale has been demonstrated. If we were to go after a monkeypox clinical development program, it would be to very quickly progress toward an approvable set of endpoints in a clinical study," he explained.
As seen with the rollout for the COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S., any new vaccine would still need to go through the regulatory authorization process, which can take weeks to months, even in special circumstances.
"We need to engage with regulators and other consultations to determine what that path would be," he added.
Hoge noted that COVID-19 is still a "larger public health threat" than monkeypox at this time and the company remains focused on preparing boosters for the fall.
Of the more than 25,000 monkeypox cases reported globally, over 6,300 cases have been reported in the U.S., according to the CDC.
Cases have been detected in 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.