John O'Connor
John O’Connor

The stock market spiked notably Monday, following news that a COVID-19 vaccine candidate has shown encouraging trial results.

But before you load up on Moderna stock, it might be helpful to keep a couple of things in mind.

First, the findings were based on a phase 1 clinical trial. That’s a bit like a baseball pitcher having a great first inning. Nice start, but the game’s hardly won.

Second, the drug in question was administered to 45 study participants. Yes, 45. So maybe this news actually is more like a baseball pitcher throwing a first-pitch strike.

To be fair, the drug in question also had success in a pre-clinical animal trial. Taken together, the data “substantiate our belief that mRNA-1273 has the potential to prevent COVID-19 disease and advance our ability to select a dose for pivotal trials,” said Tal Zaks, M.D., Ph.D., Moderna’s chief medical officer. 

The company plans to roll out a phase 3 clinical trial in July, with the aim of filing for a commercial license if successful.

That’s all wonderful stuff. And I think I speak for just about every person on this planet in wishing Moderna nothing but the best. After all, a successful vaccine means millions of deaths could be prevented going forward.

But here’s the thing: Conquering any disease is a bit like trying to ride a bike up a mountain at night in a driving rainstorm. It ain’t easy.

During my three decades with McKnight’s, I have been receiving weekly and sometimes daily updates on promising new Alzheimer’s disease treatments. Yet we still do not have an approved medicine that stops the disease. Nor are there signs that such a breakthrough is imminent.

So let’s be hopeful. And optimistic. But also, realistic.

This week’s news marks a great start. But we may still have a long way to go.