Own CSL (ASX:CSL) shares? Here's why the company is moving on from COVID research

Coronavirus variants are proving resilient against a range of vaccines.

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CSL Limited (ASX: CSL) shares are joining the broader ASX selloff today, down 3.93% to $248.20 per share.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) is falling hard too, down 1.47% after posting early morning gains of 0.5%.

That's today's CSL share price action.

Now we turn to why CSL is throwing in the towel on its 2-year long research into COVID-19 vaccines.

Why is CSL moving on from COVID research?

CSL has long been involved in formulating novel vaccines against a range of ailments.

When the coronavirus went global in early 2020, CSL turned its sights onto beating the virus that stemmed from Wuhan, China.

In a partial success story, the biopharmaceutical company manufactured AstraZeneca under license for Australia distribution in Melbourne. Following the reports that AstraZeneca could lead to blood clots in certain rare cases, primarily among younger people, the vaccine was eventually rebranded as Vaxzevria.

However, CSL's efforts at creating its own COVID vaccine eventually failed. The trial vaccine created together with researchers at the University of Queensland had promising results. But the drug was pulled after revelations that it could lead to false positive tests for HIV.

CSL also was part of a larger group of global companies working on a hyperimmune therapy in 2020. That project was ditched after it failed to meet expectations.

Now, as The Australian reports, "CSL … has quietly pulled the plug on developing Covid-19 antiviral treatments as it steams ahead on other projects in its $1bn-a-year research program."

According to a CSL spokesman, "CSL is proud of the role we have played in bringing the Vaxzevria vaccine to millions of Australians, as well as neighbouring countries. At present we are not investigating any antiviral treatments for Covid-19."

But that doesn't spell the end of the company's $1 billion annual research program.

In December, CSL chairman Brian McNamee said (quoted by The Australian):

We are firmly committed to advancing our next-generation sa-mRNA vaccine technology which aims to address some of the challenges presented by the current technology. We will utilise our global network, including research facilities in Cambridge, Massachusetts and clinical scale manufacturing facilities in Holly Springs, North Carolina, to achieve this.

How have CSL shares been performing?

CSL shares have been on a bit of a rollercoaster over the past 12 months, leaving them down 10%. By comparison the ASX 200 is relatively flat since this time last year.

So far in 2022, CSL shares have fallen 15%.

The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. owns and has recommended CSL Ltd. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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