President Donald Trump has once again raised hopes of Americans by saying that a vaccine could be produced ahead of the U.S. presidential election on Nov 3. Although it is a more optimistic timeline than the one given by his top infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, a vaccine appears the only way to eradicate the infection.
Also, millions are pinning their hopes on a handful of drugmakers, which are into the final phases of their vaccine trial. Moreover, governments across the world are pumping in millions of dollars to secure the first doses of vaccines.
Vaccine Hopes Rise Again
On Aug 7, Trump said that the vaccine would be ready "sooner than the end of the year. Could be much sooner." Trump also said that there are several vaccines being studied and he is confident that the United States will do “good on vaccines and therapeutics also."
This isn’t the first time that Trump has made such comments. Although many experts believe that a vaccine for COVID-19 may take years, many biotech firms and drugmakers are hopeful about developing a vaccine by the end of this year or early 2021. Moreover, a large number of companies have already entered the final phase of their coronavirus vaccine trials, while a few will be entering the last leg soon.
Vaccine Race Heats Up
Naturally, with drugmakers and biotech companies making remarkable progress in developing a vaccine over the past few months, optimism remains high. Last month, Moderna, Inc. MRNA and Pfizer, Inc PFE launched two 30,000-subject trials of COVID-19 vaccines that could clear the way for regulatory approval and widespread use by the end of this year, the companies said.
The trials, both announced on the same day, are the first late-stage studies supported by the Trump administration’s efforts to ramp up the development of a coronavirus vaccine. Also, the administration is shelling out billions of dollars to secure the first doses of a successful vaccine.
Pharma giants Sanofi SNY and GlaxoSmithKline plc GSK last month said that they will receive up to $2.1 billion from the U.S. government for the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline will start the clinical trials of their vaccine candidate in September and the phase 3 study will be underway by the end of the year.
On Aug 3, Eli Lilly and Company LLY said that it will be beginning a late-stage trial to study whether one of its experimental COVID-19 antibody treatments can prevent the virus’ spread in residents and staff in the United States.
Stocks in Focus
Moderna has been one of the frontrunners in the COVID-19 vaccine race. The company’s vaccine candidate mRNA-1273 is a molecule that genetically encodes a set of instructions based on which cells make proteins and send them to various parts of the body. Moderna’s vaccine for COVID-19 showed it was safe and triggered immune responses in all 45 healthy volunteers in the early-stage study.
The company’s expected earnings growth rate for the current year is 1.9%. Its shares have gained 14.1% in the past 30 days. Moderna has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.
Pfizer joined forces with German biotech giant BioNTech BNTX to develop a vaccine for coronavirus. The 360 patients in the U.S. trial started to receive the first doses of the four vaccine candidates included in the study as of May 5. Dosing in 200 participants in the German trial began on Apr 23. The company has now entered its phase 2/3 safety and efficacy clinical study on 30,000 subjects. The candidate has so far shown promise and the U.S. government has also placed an initial order of 100 million doses for $1.95 billion to secure 500 million additional doses of the vaccine.
Pfizer’s shares have advanced 14.9% in the past month. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings has improved 1.4% over the past 60 days. Pfizer carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).
Gilead Sciences, Inc. GILD in May received an emergency-use authorization from the FDA based on preliminary results from two clinical trials: one conducted by the NIAID and the other by Gilead.
The company’s expected earnings growth rate for the current year is 3%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings has improved 6.7% over the past 60 days. Shares of the company have gained 6.7% year to date. Gilead has a Zacks Rank #3.
Amgen, Inc. AMGN, one of the biggest biotech companies in the world, collaborated with Adaptive, Inc. ADPT in April to work on antibodies that can be used to prevent or treat COVID-19. In the coming days, Amgen also plans to test Otezla as a COVID-19 therapy, treating respiratory distress in late-stage patients.
Amgen’s expected earnings growth rate for the current year is 5.5%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings has improved 0.8% over the past 60 days.
Dynavax Technologies Corporation DVAX is developing a vaccine candidate SCB-2019 with GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK) which is in its phase 1 clinical trials. The vaccine is made up of S-Trimer protein that resembles the coronavirus spike protein and hence triggers the immune system to produce antibodies. Last week, Dynavax partnered with Taiwan-based Medigen Vaccine Biologics to develop an adjuvanted Covid-19 vaccine candidate.
The partners will leverage Medigen’s stable prefusion form of the SARS-CoV2 recombinant spike protein in combination with Dynavax’s advanced adjuvant CpG 1018.Dynavax’sshares have rallied 83.1% in the past three months. Dynavax has a Zacks Rank #3.
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