Multiple vaccines have been authorized, with others still in the works.
The creation of a vaccine during the pandemic in a matter of months instead of years was unprecedented. Now the race is on to distribute billions of doses from multiple manufacturers quickly enough to stem the tide of the virus. It’s not just human lives that are at stake, as governments have spent a lot of money on the vaccine effort. Both Wall Street and Main Street are hoping vaccine deployments will help to give the economic recovery a shot in the arm. Investors have sunk a lot of money into companies developing vaccines. Here’s a look at how the race is shaping up among seven drug companies working on a vaccine.
When the U.K. authorized this duo’s vaccine in December 2020, it marked the first clearance of a coronavirus vaccine that had been tested in a large clinical trial. By the end of May, the U.S. is set to receive 200 million doses of the vaccine, which has been shown to be more than 95% effective. In its 2021 financial guidance, Pfizer said revenues from the vaccine alone could come in at approximately $15 billion, which is a sizeable chunk of its expected total revenue of $59.4 billion to $61.4 billion. The treatment contributed $154 million to fourth-quarter sales after U.S. emergency authorization was granted in December. Shares of Pfizer and Germany-based BioNTech remain down roughly 17% and 9%, respectively, from their recent highs in December.
The authorization of Moderna’s vaccine, which is more than 94% effective, in the U.S. came just days after that for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. In late January, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology company said it was in discussion with the U.S. government about buying an additional 100 million doses of its vaccine for delivery in the third quarter. That would be on top of 200 million doses the U.S. had previously agreed to purchase. As of Jan. 26, the company had supplied the government with more than 30 million doses. Moderna reports fourth-quarter results on Feb. 25, when it will perhaps provide more numbers on its vaccine sales and maybe an outlook for 2021. Year to date, shares of MRNA are up more than 60% as of yesterday’s close.
Finding a vaccine for the virus has been a global goal, and companies around the world have tapped some of the brightest minds on the planet to speed things along toward this pursuit. In the case of British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, the company has been working with researchers from Oxford University. Its vaccine, which can be distributed and stored at normal refrigerated temperatures, has been authorized in the U.K., and a large trial in the U.S. is underway. AstraZeneca has signed several agreements covering distribution across a number of jurisdictions to provide total manufacturing capacity approaching 3 billion doses by the end of this year.
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)
While AstraZeneca’s vaccine can be stored under regular refrigerator temperatures, it still requires two doses. A lot of hopes have been pinned on health care giant Johnson & Johnson’s candidate because it can also be stored at warmer temperatures and, importantly, only requires one dose. Phase 3 results showed 66% global efficacy in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19. That level of protection was 72% in the U.S., but only 57% in Latin America and South Africa. More promisingly, the vaccine candidate was 85% effective in preventing severe cases in all regions and offered complete protection against COVID-related hospitalization and death. Earlier this month, JNJ said it had requested emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and was ready to begin shipping doses immediately after authorization. The company could produce more than 1 billion doses of the vaccine globally this year, with at least 100 million of them for the U.S.
Novavax has started phase 3 studies of its vaccine candidate in the U.K. and U.S. Data from the U.K. phase 3 trial showed its vaccine is 89.3% effective. The company said the vaccine is the first to demonstrate high clinical efficacy against COVID-19 and significant clinical efficacy against both rapidly emerging U.K. and South Africa variants. The Novavax vaccine is also stable at normal refrigerator temperatures and is shipped as a ready-to-use liquid. Novavax has partnered with Emergent BioSolutions (EBS) to roll out the vaccine, assuming it receives government approval. Earlier this month, Novavax said a rolling review process had started with multiple regulatory agencies, including in the U.S. and Europe.
Inovio Pharmaceuticals (INO)
Inovio’s vaccine candidate requires a special delivery device, but it doesn’t have to be frozen during storage and transport. In November 2020, the company announced initiation of the phase 2 segment of its phase 2/3 clinical trial funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. The company said in December that it had dosed its first subject in the phase 2 segment. Inovio is trading at a significant multiple based on expected revenues, and that valuation has been spurred on by the attention being paid to Moderna, says Andrew Little, research analyst with Global X. The company is focused on using its revenue to continue to scale up, he adds.
Little also makes note of German biotech company CureVac, whose vaccine candidate can be stored at standard refrigerator temperatures, making distribution logistics easier. The company has partnered with German-based pharma company Bayer and U.K.-based GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). In addition to CureVac’s first generation vaccine candidate, which is in a phase 2b/3 trial, the company said in February it was building on its existing team up with GlaxoSmithKline on a next generation vaccine program that could bring a candidate to market next year to address multiple emerging variants in one vaccine.
Pharma stocks working on a vaccine to end the pandemic:
— Moderna (MRNA)
— AstraZeneca (AZN)
— Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)
— Novavax (NVAX)
— Inovio Pharmaceuticals (INO)
— CureVac (CVAC)
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Update 02/10/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.