Healthcare Business

4 Companies in Late-Stage Coronavirus Vaccine Testing: Will Big Pharma Win the Race?

Johnson & Johnson recently published data from an interim analysis of a Phase 1/ Phase 2A trial evaluating the company’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate Ad26.COV2.S. This follows the company’s announcement last week that it was advancing the vaccine into Phase 3, representing the fourth vaccine to enter late-stage testing in the United States.

The dividend was raised in the spring to $1.01 per share, which equals a 2.75% yield. The BofA Securities price target is $175, while the consensus target is $165.06. Johnson & Johnson stock closed at $147.06 on Tuesday.

Moderna

This company has had a ton of attention as smaller player with a potential vaccine to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Moderna Inc. (NASDAQ: MRNA) develops therapeutics and vaccines based on messenger RNA for immuno-oncology and the treatment of infectious, rare and cardiovascular diseases.

As of last year, the company had 11 programs in clinical trials and 20 development candidates in six modalities comprising prophylactic vaccines, cancer vaccines, intratumoral immuno-oncology, localized regenerative therapeutics, systemic secreted therapeutics and systemic intracellular therapeutics.

Moderna has strategic alliances with AstraZeneca, Merck, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and well as a research collaboration with Harvard University.

Moderna’s CEO and a COVID-19 panel recently agreed that an emergency use authorization for the vaccine should come by the end of this year, with Moderna indicating it will be commercially ready for a November 1 launch. This vaccine candidate relies on injecting snippets of a virus’s genetic material, in this case mRNA, into human cells. They create viral proteins that mimic the coronavirus, training the immune system to recognize its presence. This technology has never been licensed for any disease. If successful, it would be the first mRNA vaccine approved for human use.

The gigantic $108 Oppenheimer price target compares to a $92.54 consensus target and the Moderna stock closing price on Tuesday of $70.52.

Pfizer

This large-cap pharmaceutical company is working with BioNtech on a vaccine. Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) is a global biopharmaceutical company with a diversified portfolio of products and pipeline candidates, and it is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world as measured by market capitalization and revenue.

Pfizer and BioNTech are also developing an mRNA vaccine, based on the German company’s earlier efforts to use the technology in experimental cancer vaccines. Pfizer has signed a nearly $2 billion contract with the U.S. government to provide 100 million doses by December 2020. That agreement would go into effect when and if the drug is approved and delivered.

The two companies have launched a trial that combines Phase 2 and Phase 3 by enrolling a wide population in areas where the virus is very prevalent. They have expanded the trial to include 44,000 people across multiple countries. The project is aiming to seek regulatory review before the end of the year and hopes to supply 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.

Pfizer stock investors receive a 4.18% dividend. RBC has set a $43 price objective. The consensus target price is $41.79, and the shares closed most recently at $36.17.


These companies have a very good shot at crossing the finish line first. It seems to make sense for investors to go with the big pharmaceutical companies as a failure in the final trials would be a negative, but they all have huge product lines and robust pipelines with future drug potential and big earnings. Any investor disappointment should be temporary.