An Investor's Ultimate Guide to Pharmaceutical Companies Working on a COVID-19 Vaccine
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An Investor's Ultimate Guide to Pharmaceutical Companies Working on a COVID-19 Vaccine

profileJoel Koh
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The COVID-19 pandemic has hit businesses hard.

Many companies in the tourism, oil and gas services and the base metals industries have seen their revenues all but dry up.

Despite this situation, some companies have actually managed to grow their businesses amidst the Coronavirus pandemic.

I am talking about the biotech companies that are working on a vaccine for the coronavirus.

Some of these companies have seen their stock prices soar over the last few months.

But one thing to note is that we won’t be seeing a vaccine anytime soon.

According to Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in America, a vaccine will take 12 to 18 months to develop.

Dr Anthony Fauci Stay Home Meme
Source: Giphy | Dr Anthony Fauci

Historically, only about 6% of vaccines actually make it to market.

With large investments only coming in towards the end when it seems likely that the product is likely to work.

To help investors who want to keep track of what is going on in the COVID-19 space, here is a list of notable companies working on a COVID-19 vaccine.


TL;DR: Pharmaceutical Companies Working on a COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19-Vaccine-Comapnies

CompanyYear to Date Performance
AstraZeneca +9.51%
BioNTech | Pfizer+46.91% | -2.53%
GlaxoSmithKline & Sanofi-10.79% | -2.71%
Moderna +214.42%
Johnson & Johnson+1.97%
INOVIO Pharmaceuticals+346.97%
Novavax +1056.78%
CanSino Biologics+220.27%
Arcturus Therapeutics+5.99%

In this analysis, I’ll include their Year to Date stock performance as an indicator of how the company is doing in the market.

Oh, and note that any announcements and projections made by the companies are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from those projected.


What Are Clinical Trial Phases?

Before we begin, it’s best you understand how a vaccine makes it from the lab to commercial distribution.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a clinical trial testing new treatments like drugs or vaccines consists of 4 different phases.

Phase 0 Clinical Trial

Phase 0 trials are the initial clinical trials administered to humans.

But before it reaches this phase, there will be pre-clinical trials for the vaccine with in-vitro (test tube or cell culture) and in-vivo (animal) experiments.

For the Phase 0 clinical trial, about 10 to 15 people are administered with a small dose of the vaccine to study its effects on the body.

This phase will typically take several months.

Phase 1 Clinical Trial

Phase 1 trials are the next round of trials that aim to find the best version of the drug with the least side effects

About 15 to 30 people are administered with a small dose of the vaccine to study its effects on the body.

This phase will typically take several months.

Phase 2 Clinical Trial

Phase 2 trials further assess the effectiveness and safety of the drug or vaccine.

Several hundred people are administered with a small dose of the vaccine to study its effects on the body.

This phase will typically take several months to two years.

Phase 3 Clinical Trial

Phase 3 trials are a continuation of Phase 2 trials that test the efficacy, effectiveness and safety of the drug or vaccine

These trials assess the therapeutic effects of the treatment. At this phase, the treatment is assumed to have some effect.

About 300–3,000 patients are administered with the treatment.

This phase will typically take one to four years.

Phase 4 Clinical Trial

The last phase is what is known as a confirmatory or postmarketing surveillance trial involves keeping track of the health of the patients who received the vaccine.

About several hundred or thousands of patients are administered with the vaccine.

At this phase, the drug is almost ready for the market. This trial allows researchers to obtain in-depth research on the short term and long term side effects of the vaccine.

After phase 4 is completed and the vaccine is approved, the company apply to sell the vaccine on the market.

The FDA will then evaluate and approve the drug before allowing the company to sell the vaccine on the market.

This phase will typically take two years.

Do note that this is the standard clinical trial procedure. Due to the urgency of the COVID-19 outbreak, this process might be shortened.


Large-Cap Companies

To start off, I’ll look at the large biotech firms and pharmaceutical companies that have a market capitalisation of US$10 billion and above.

1. AstraZeneca Plc (NYSE: AZN)

First up, we have British-Sweedish multinational company AstraZeneca, which has just recently received US$1 billion in U.S. government funding for their work on the COVID-19 vaccine.

The company which is headquartered in Cambridge, England is a large-cap company with a market capitalisation of US$142.84 billion.

AstraZeneca has partnered with Oxford University for its COVID-19 vaccine project, which taps on Oxford’s vaccinology expertise and AstrZenecia’s international development, manufacturing and distribution capabilities.

Their project is amongst the fastest moving projects in the world and is currently at the human clinical trials stage.

Even though they are ahead, an important thing to note about vaccines is that the process is complicated and there are no guarantees of success.

AstraZeneca Year to Date Performance and Company Information:

Since the 1 January until 1 June 2020, AstreaZenca stock has risen 9.51%.

AstreaZeneca stock price
Source: Google

As always, past performance is NOT an indication of future performance.

2. BioNTech (NASDAQ: BNTX) and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE)

Pfizer and BioNTech have teamed up to develop the COVID-19 vaccine.

Similarly, this partnership taps on BioNTech’s vaccinology and development’s expertise and Pfizer’s manufacturing and distribution capabilities.

On 5 May 2020, the companies announced that they have administered the vaccine to the first participants in America in their Phase 1/2 clinical trials.

The trial is part of a global development program, where the first batch of participants was administered the vaccine a week before.

In addition, BioNTech is also collaborating with Shangai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group in China to test the vaccine.

These companies are huge, as BioNTech and Pfizer have a market capitalisation of US$11.23 billion and US$212.13 billion respectively.

BioNTech Year to Date Performance and Stock Information:

Since the start of this year (1 Jan 2020) until now (1 Jun 2020), BioNTech stock has risen 46.91%.

Search Results Finance results BioNTech Stock Performance 2020
Source: Google

Pfizer Year to Date Performance and Stock Information:

Since the start of this year (1 Jan 2020) until now (1 Jun 2020), Pfizer stock has dropped -2.53%.

Pfizer stock performance 2020
Source: Google

3. GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) and Sanofi (NASDAQ: SNY)

Like Pfizer and BioNTech, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have teamed up to develop an adjuvant COVID-19 vaccine.

Sanofi a French multinational biopharmaceutical company will provide its expertise on the S-protein COVID-19 antigen, while British multinational pharmaceutical company GSK will provide its adjuvant technology.

The companies have announced that the vaccine will undergo clinical trials in the second part of 2020. If these trials are successful, the vaccine is projected to be ready by the second half of 2021.

In addition, Sanofi is also working the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) on another vaccine program.

These companies are also rather large, as GSK and Sanofi have a market capitalisation of US$104.53 billion and US$123.16 billion respectively.

GlaxoSmithKline Year to Date Performance and Stock Information:

Since the start of this year (1 Jan 2020) until now (1 Jun 2020), GSK stock has dropped -10.79%.

GSK Stock Performance 2020
Source: Google

Sanofi Year to Date Performance and Stock Information:

Sanofi Stock Performance 2020
Source: Google

Since the start of this year (1 Jan 2020) until now (1 Jun 2020), Sanofi stock has dropped -2.71%.

4. Moderna Inc. (NASDAQ: MRNA)

Next up we have Moderna Therapeutics, a U.S. multinational biotech company that develops and discovers drugs based exclusively on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.

Moderna has a market capitalisation of just US$22.83 billion.

Currently, the company is administering its mRNA vaccine in Phase 1 of its clinical trials in America. Phase 2 of the clinical trials are set to begin in the second half of this year if all things go well with the Phase 1 trials

Moderna has also received funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a global foundation that raises funds from the public, private, philanthropic, and civil society organisations

CEPI then channels the money to fight emerging infectious diseases like COVID-19, MERs the Nipah virus and more.

The company also received US$483 million in funding from the U.S. government (BARDA) to fight COVID-19.

Moderna Inc. Year to Date Performance and Stock Information:

 

 

 

Moderna Stock Performance 2020
Source: Google

Since the start of this year (1 Jan 2020) until now (1 Jun 2020), Moderna stock has risen an astounding 214.42%. 

5. Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ)

I think that most of you would be familiar with Johnson & Johnson and their consumer goods like powder and soap. They are actually a U.S. multinational company that also produces medical devices and pharmaceutical products.

Size-wise, they are the largest company on this list with a market capitalisation of US$392.15 billion!

Naturally, they have a wealth of resources to devote to developing a COVID-19 vaccine as they matched BARDA’s funding of US$1 billion.

This adds up to a total budget of US$2 billion for the research and development of their vaccine.

Currently, they are still at the preclinical trial stage and are set to start their clinical tests latest by September 2020. The company expects that the first batch of vaccines can be administered for emergency use in early 2021.

Johnson & Johnson Year to Date Performance and Stock Information:

Since the start of this year (1 Jan 2020) until now (1 Jun 2020), Johnson & Johson stock has risen a modest 1.97%. 

Johnson & Johnson Stock Performance 2020
Source: Google

Mid-Cap and Small-Cap Companies

Next up we have the smaller mid-cap and small-cap companies that are working on the COVID-19 vaccine.

Unlike the large-cap companies, these companies have fewer resources and experience to research, develop and manufacture the vaccines.

However, they possess innovative technologies which may give them an edge.

1. INOVIO Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: INO)

The first of the mid-cap companies working on the vaccine is INOVIO Pharmaceuticals, a U.S. biotechnology company that discovers, develops and commercialises synthetic DNA products to treat infectious diseases and cancers.

Their company is also comparatively smaller with a market capitalisation of US$2.332 billion.

Not surprisingly, they are developing a DNA COVID-19 vaccine that is undergoing a Phase 1 clinical trial. If the Phase 1 trials are successful, the company expects the Phase 2 to 3 trials to start in June 2020.

In terms of funding, they have received:

  • US$9 million from CEPI
  • US$5 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • US11.9 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

The DOD will also partner with INOVIO, and share their technological expertise to help them with the development of the vaccine.

INOVIO Pharmaceuticals Year to Date Performance and Stock Information:

Since the start of this year (1 Jan 2020) until now (1 Jun 2020), INVOVIO stock has risen a crazy 346.97%. 

INOVIO stock performance 2020
Source: Google

2. Novavax Inc (NASDAQ: NVAX)

Another company working on a COVID-19 vaccine is Novavax, a U.S. vaccine development company.

With a market capitalisation of US$2.7 billion, the company is much smaller than the other large companies mentioned above.

However, they are pulling out all the stops to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. On 25 May 2020, they started the Phase 1 clinical trial of their COVID-19 vaccine.

Novavax also stated that if they are expecting preliminary immunogenicity and safety results by July.

Like many companies on this list, Novavax has also received US$4 million in funding from CEPI. They have also partnered with another company, Emergent BioSolutions Inc. to develop and manufacture the vaccines.

Novavax Year to Date Performance and Stock Information:

Since the start of this year (1 Jan 2020) until now (1 Jun 2020), Novavax stock has risen an insane 1056.78%. 

 

Novavax stock performance 2020
Source: Google

3. CanSino Biologics (HKEX: 6185)

Next up, we have CanSino Biologics, a Chinese biopharmaceutical that discovers develops, manufactures and commercialises infectious diseases vaccines.

With a market capitalisation of just US$8.4 billion, CanSino is neither too big nor too small.

However, what warrants its inclusion on this list is that CanSino has the backing of the Chinese government.

The company has just completed its Phase 1 clinical trials and published its results in the medical journal The Lancet. 

It is currently carrying out their Phase 2 trial in China and looks set to take the trial to Canada.

CanSino is also working closely with Canada’s Precision NanoSystems on the COVID-19 Vaccine.

Sinovac Biotech Year to Date Performance and Stock Information:

Since the start of this year (1 Jan 2020) until now (1 Jun 2020), CanSino stock has risen an astounding 220.27%. 

CanSino Biologics Stock Performance 2020
Source: Google

4. Arcturus Therapeutics Ltd. (NASDAQ: ARCT)

Last but not least we have Arcturus Therapeutics, a U.S. biotech company that discovers, develops and commercialises therapeutics mainly based on Ribonucleic acid (RNA).

With a market capitalisation of just US$797.97 million, Arcturus is the smallest company on this list.

However, they are collaborating together with Duke-NUS Medical School to produce a COVID-19 vaccine that makes the human body produce part of the vaccine to fight it.

They are currently at the pre-clinical trials stage and are set to start clinical trials in August.

They have also received US$10 million in funding from Singapore Government agencies to fund the research and development of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Arcturus Year to Date Performance and Stock Information:

Since the start of this year (1 Jan 2020) until now (1 Jun 2020), Arcturus stock has risen a modest 5.99%. 

Arcturus stock performance 2020
Source: Google

Which Company Should I Invest In?

A key thing to remember about these companies is that we now have the benefit of hindsight to spot them while they are doing well.

Another thing to note is that vaccine development process is fraught with many challenges.

The virus might mutate.

People might respond well to the vaccine.

Amongst many other things.

Although the developing of a COVID-19 vaccine might give the company a short term boost.

It is important to do your homework and discern if these are high-quality companies that you should be investing in.

If you’re wondering which companies are high-quality, why not head over to the SeedlyCommunity to discuss them with like-minded individuals?

Disclaimer: The information provided by Seedly serves as an educational piece and is not intended to be personalised investment advice. ​Readers should always do their own due diligence and consider their financial goals before investing in any stock. 

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About Joel Koh
History student turned writer at Seedly. Before you ask, not a teacher. My time as a history student has equipped me with the skills to evaluate the impact societal development has on financial and nonfinancial events.
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