Healthcare Business

This Biotech Could Make a Big Splash With the Coronavirus Scare

Chris Lange

The newest coronavirus out of China has resulted in a rising interest in biotechs that may be able to produce a vaccine or treatment with a short turnaround. We’ve seen big moves from the likes of Novavax Inc. (NASDAQ: NVAX), and NanoViricides Inc. (NYSE: NNVC) and Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: INO) in response. However, one biomedical products company is positioning itself to enter the fray as well.

Cerus Corp. (NASDAQ: CERS) recently announced the publication of a study in Transfusion Medicine on the inactivation of the MERS (Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome) coronavirus in human platelet concentrates using the Intercept Blood System for platelets.

This study follows prior publications on the inactivation of the MERS coronavirus in human plasma and the inactivation of the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) coronavirus in human platelets. A new coronavirus outbreak is currently ongoing in China, with the first imported U.S. case confirmed on Tuesday. The genetic sequence of the new coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, is at least 70% similar to SARS-CoV.

The Intercept Blood System has proven effective in reducing the risk of transfusion-transmitted infections across a broad spectrum of known and potentially emerging pathogens by cross-linking the pathogens’ nucleic acids, and thereby blocking the replication of viruses, bacteria and parasites present in the blood product.

Some quick background: A coronavirus is a kind of common virus that causes an infection in the upper respiratory tracts. More serious coronaviruses, such as MERS and SARS, can cause severe respiratory illness.

Dr. Laurence Corash, M.D., Cerus’s chief scientific officer, commented:

Our research publications show that several members of the coronavirus family are susceptible to inactivation with amotosalen and ultraviolet (UVA) light. We have already obtained product claims for inactivation of SARS-CoV in plasma in both Europe and the U.S. As new pathogens emerge, we will continue to evaluate the performance of our INTERCEPT systems, in case any of these new agents are determined to pose a threat to blood safety.

Cerus stock was last seen up more than 4% at $4.49 a share, in a 52-week range of $3.70 to $6.88. The consensus price target is $8.00.

Novavax shares were up 11% to $7.89, in a 52-week range of $3.54 to $48.80. The consensus price target is $13.75.

NanoViricides traded up 41% at $5.39 per share. The 52-week range is $1.27 to $13.60.

Shares of Inovio shares traded up 13% to $3.88. The 52-week range is $1.92 to $5.11, and the consensus price target is $9.43.