Biotechs Working on Coronavirus Vaccine Popular With Investors

While commercial use of any approved drug could take years, some drugs are already showing promising results in the fight against the virus.

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As concerns mount about the coronavirus, a dozen or so biotech companies have ramped up their efforts to fight the disease. And, investors are taking note. Vir Biotechnology stock soared 111 percent over the past month. Novavax also surged 91 percent. Investors are betting that biotech will win in the war against the coronavirus.

Alan Carr, a senior analyst at The Needham Group, said, “At least a dozen companies have informally or formally announced vaccine or drug development initiatives. It appears at least a few programs will have moved into clinical testing within a few months,” Carr said, referring to the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Inovio Pharmaceuticals stock rose 37 percent in January alone when the company announced that it’s developing a vaccine against the virus. Moderna and Regeneron also announced plans to develop a coronavirus vaccine as well as produce antibodies against the virus.

Morgan Stanley was particularly bullish on Moderna’s stock. Matthew Harrison, a Morgan Stanley analyst, noted: “Moderna has a potential benefit over traditional vaccine makers in that once it has the sequences that code for the most immunogenic part of the virus’ surface proteins, or antigens, management can rapidly make a clinical development candidate.”

The outbreak has suddenly worsened in recent weeks, which has some investors concerned about risk assets. Many companies are taking measures in anticipation of a global disruption in the economy. Biotech companies seem to be the safer bet at the moment for investors.

Other biotech companies joining the coronavirus fight are Abbvie, Geovax, Gilead, and Vaxart, among others.

Most of the companies already have programs that include drugs already in use for other viral diseases or unapproved drugs that were first developed for other viruses. One such drug is Gilead’s remdesivir, a drug that failed to successfully treat Ebola, but which is now showing promising signs for helping ease symptoms of the coronavirus.

Analysts warn that any drugs that are developed could take years to be available for commercial use. But, if one were to beat expectations, it could be Regeneron. Harrison points out that Regeneron moved from the development phase to a therapeutic candidate within six months of its Ebola efforts during that outbreak.

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