Moderna Inc. (NASDAQ: MRNA) recently announced that its COVID-19 vaccine candidate (mRNA-1273) is showing signs of working and inducing an immune response in adults aged 56 and older at similar rates to in younger patients. Moderna is one of five biotech or pharmaceutical stocks that have been selected under Operation Warp Speed to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, and its existing Phase 3 clinical trial is being analyzed for its efficacy to prevent infection of COVID-19. The U.S. government recently gave an order, subject to the vaccine being approved of course, to purchase 100 million initial doses of the vaccine candidate for a sum of up to $1.525 billion.
Moderna’s stock has been the subject of many analyst reports calling for substantial upside, but a recent patent ruling within the United States went in favor of Arbutus Biopharma Corp. (NASDAQ: ABUS), which may have implications for Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine frontrunner status. The U.S. Patent Trademark Office ultimately rejected arguments made by Moderna that an Arbutus patent should be revoked because it described obvious concepts. This patent relates to lipid nanoparticle technology that allows the human body to make its own therapeutic proteins.
The next Phase 3 COVID-19 study comes from Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) and BioNTech S.E. (NASDAQ: BNTX). A recent update showed that their mutual vaccine candidate was well tolerated and it is on track for regulatory review as early as October. If those targets are hit, the two companies have plans to supply up to 100 million does worldwide by the end of 2020 and roughly 1.3 billion does by the end of 2021.
Pfizer and BioNTech previously announced that BNT162b2-vaccinated human participants displayed a favorable breadth of epitopes recognized in T cell responses specific to the SARS-CoV-2 spike antigen, as compared to the BNT162b1 candidate.
What investors have been looking forward to is at least one vaccine. That said, it has been widely reported that one vaccine is deemed to be not enough to control the pandemic adequately. It is very possible that true vaccination might not be 100% effective in prevention, similar to a flu shot even when the powers that be get their strain predictions right that year. It is also possible that more than one of the vaccines prove to be far more effective in treating COVID-19 over time.
The three studies that are in Phase 3 also will have some continued interest. Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) is said to be kicking off its own trial, which could be more than 60,000 patients globally as soon as late September. The company began its first human study of its Ad26. COV2. S vaccine back in July in the United States and Belgium.
Another company in the hunt to supply COVID-19 vaccines is Novavax Inc. (NASDAQ: NVAX). It recently announced that it has reached an agreement in principle with the Government of Canada to supply up to 76 million doses of its NVX-CoV2373 COVID-19 vaccine. That candidate is currently under an advance purchase agreement, but Novavax has this in multiple Phase 2 clinical trials and it is not scheduled for delivery until as early as the second quarter of 2021. This purchase arrangement also will be subject to licensing of the Novavax vaccine by Health Canada.
These are far from the only COVID-19 vaccine candidates being studied. 24/7 Wall St. also has featured other companies that are in the hunt for the cure, but those stages of studies can change rapidly.
One thing is certain. The financial markets are expecting at least one of these vaccine candidates to be effective enough for FDA approval. The stock market at all-time highs, with unemployment still at 10% or higher and with valuations looking rather stretched, just becomes much harder to rationalize if the economy of 2020 is going to be stuck in the same mud for another year or two.