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The biotech company Moderna invited the scrutiny of the world last month when it withheld key data on its in-development vaccine for the novel coronavirus. Stéphane Bancel, the company’s CEO, said Wednesday that Moderna’s decision to be vague was a matter of respecting federal securities laws and the rules of scientific journals.

Speaking at an online event held by the Wall Street firm Jefferies, Bancel said Moderna issued its May 18 press release — which described the vaccine’s beneficial effects only in qualitative terms — to prevent a potential leak. And the company left out key data so that the National Institutes of Health, which is conducting the vaccine trial, could later publish the results in a medical journal, he said.

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