The story that has dominated this past week is that China is facing an outbreak of the coronavirus, and more countries around the world are seeing cases pop up. Global infections of nearly 10,000 people have been reported, but only about 150 of these were outside of mainland China. However, there are concerns that China is underreporting these numbers, and asymptomatic transmission is a troubling issue. In response, experimental vaccine stocks have become increasingly popular, and even more biotechs are jumping at the prospect.
This harkens back to a few years ago when the Ebola virus poised a threat to the international community and biotech companies were quick to pursue a treatment and vaccine. At that time, practically any company that said it was developing anything related to Ebola saw a boost from the news. As more news poured in, these companies kept running. Sarepta Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: SRPT) saw some its biggest gains then.
As for the coronavirus, there have been roughly 9,900 confirmed infections and at least 213 deaths stemming from an outbreak in Wuhan. Infections have been reported in East Asia, with Japan and Thailand leading the count. A couple European countries have reported infections, and there have been cases in the United States and Canada as well.
Some quick background: Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to pneumonia. It primarily affects the respiratory system. In the past, coronaviruses have manifested as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and, most recently, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
The following are biotech companies with exposure to experimental vaccines whose shares are seeing the biggest boost from this news.
Novavax Inc. (NASDAQ: NVAX) shares traded above $7 late on Friday, in a 52-week range of $3.54 to $48.80. The consensus price target is $13.75. Note that shares were up over 100% year to date on last look.
NanoViricides Inc. (NYSE: NNVC) shares traded near $16 on Friday. The 52-week range is $1.27 to $19.20. Shares were up more than 500% in 2020.
Aethlon Medical Inc. (NASDAQ: AEMD) shares traded at $4 or so as the week wound down, in a 52-week range of $0.76 to $21.30. The consensus price target is $3.00. So far in 2020, shares are up over 200%.
Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: INO) shares were last seen above $4. The 52-week range is $1.92 to $5.95, and the consensus price target is $9.43. Since the beginning of the year, shares are up 30% or so.