Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel.
  • Moderna is developing three different vaccine booster methods to protect against COVID-19 variants.
  • Testing on one specifically designed to fight the variant that first emerged in South Africa will begin "very soon."
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The NIH will soon begin testing a new booster shot for Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine that could better protect people against an emerging variant, according to the biotech's chief executive. 

Moderna announced Wednesday that it has shipped a new version of its vaccine to the NIH - exactly one year after it handed over its first COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The National Institutes of Health (NIH),  the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and public health research. 

A clinical trial will involve a few hundred participants and will begin "very soon," Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel told Insider. 

The new shot is one of several strategies Moderna is exploring to address virus variants, including one that first appeared in South Africa in October and has been found in at least 10 US states. This variant, known as B.1.351, includes several mutations to the spike protein that experts fear will make it less susceptible to the vaccines currently on the market.

Moderna is also developing two other booster shots, as well as a potential new vaccine targeted at the B.1.351 variant, the company said.

Moderna has said that its vaccine still protects people against the South African variant and others that have begun popping up across the globe. Nonetheless, the biotech began developing a new version of its shot last month.

Bancel is also keeping a close eye on the variant that has emerged in California, and said Moderna will create a shot for that variant, if needed. "Moderna is very committed. I tell every head of state: We will chase every variant of concern. Period. If we have to chase 10 in the next 10 months, we'll chase 10. We have the capability. We have infrastructure," Bancel said. 

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