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Which Biotech Company Has the Most Promising Coronavirus Vaccine? – Motley Fool

A coronavirus vaccine has the potential to not only save countless lives, but also to mitigate trillions in economic damage.

Zhiyuan Sun

The U.S. Congressional Budget Office projects that the COVID-19 pandemic will cause more than $16 trillion worth of damage to the U.S. economy over the next decade. More than 140,000 Americans have already died from the coronavirus, meaning that in the span of six and a half months, SARS-CoV-2 has killed more people than the number of Americans who die each year from opioid overdose (46,000), traffic accidents (36,500), and gun violence (40,000) combined.

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t subsiding in the U.S., with more than 70,000 new cases per day as of July 15. Nearly 25 states have now rolled back their reopening plans as the nation struggles to contain the deadly virus.

Fortunately, there are over 140 coronavirus vaccines in development. Out of this group, four vaccines are currently frontrunners. Let’s look at which vaccine company is the best buy for investors. 

Doctor in personal protective equipment giving the thumbs up sign and holding a sample bottle labeled COVID-19 vaccine.

Image source: Getty Images.

Four rising stars in the search for a cure

First up is Moderna‘s (NASDAQ:MRNA) mRNA-1273, a vaccine containing messenger ribonucleic acid strands that code for the SARS-CoV-2’s spike (S) protein, which is responsible for facilitating the virus’s entry into host cells. It’s theorized that the vaccine functions by prompting the body’s immune system to recognize S-proteins from its vaccine to defend itself, so it’s ready in the event the actual SARS-CoV-2 enters the body. In phase 1 clinical trials, all 45 healthy volunteers who received mRNA-1273 developed neutralizing antibodies (antibodies that can combat SARS-CoV-2). The vaccine will enter phase 3 on July 27.

Second up is Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech‘s (NASDAQ:BNTX) BNT162b1. Like mRNA-1273, BNT162b1 is also a messenger RNA vaccine, except it encodes a specific receptor-binding domain of SARS-CoV-2. The vaccine also has a similar mechanism of action as mRNA-1273. Additionally, all 45 healthy subjects who received Pfizer and BioNtech’s vaccine in phase 1/2 trials developed neutralizing antibodies. BNT162b1’s phase 3 clinical trial is scheduled to commence shortly.

The third candidate at play is Inovio Pharmaceuticals(NASDAQ:INO) INO-4800. INO-4800 is one stem upstream from the two mRNA vaccines discussed previously, as it features DNA that encodes for messenger RNA that encodes the SARS-CoV-2’s S-protein.

In phase 1 trials, 34 out of 36 participants who received INO-4800 developed an immune response. However, it is not known what percentage of patients developed neutralizing antibodies. Without this metric, no definitive efficacy claims can be drawn.

Lastly, AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) and Oxford University are developing their own version of a vaccine that encodes SARS-CoV-2’s S-protein. The vaccine is labeled AZD1222 and is made from a weakened version of the common cold virus. Phase 1 results are set to be released July 20. The company has already announced that not only did AZD1222 produce antibodies when given to trial participants, but it also led to the development of killer T-cells against SARS-CoV-2. The vaccine is currently in phase 3. 

So which company is the best buy? 

While all of the companies above are making significant progress in the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine, AstraZeneca’s AD1222 is currently the most promising candidate due to its ability to produce both antibodies and killer T-cell response. There is growing evidence that a T-cell response is as important as neutralizing antibodies in fighting SARS-CoV-2. 

A recent study showed that coronavirus antibodies start to fade within three weeks and disappear entirely by three months. Killer T-cells, however, can circulate within the body for years after injection. Hence, AstraZeneca’s vaccine has the potential to become a double defense against the SARS-CoV-2. 

The company launched a phase 3 clinical trial evaluating AZD1222 on July 4, and has the manufacturing capacity to produce 2 billion doses if approved. Since the vaccine offers the potential to save countless lives and alleviate economic impact, I recommend investors add AstraZeneca to their portfolios


Zhiyuan Sun has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Biotech stocks

3 Top Biotech Stocks to Buy in June – Motley Fool

They have one big thing in common: great growth prospects.

Keith Speights

Investors seeking to beat the market should take a long and hard look at biotech stocks. That’s especially true during times when there’s a lot of uncertainty for the economy and the stock market — like now.

But some biotech stocks are clearly more attractive than others. Here are three top biotech stocks that I think are great picks to buy in June.

Three test tubes containing different-colored fluids

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Vertex Pharmaceuticals

There’s too much to like about Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:VRTX) for it not to top the list. The company is highly profitable. It’s growing fast and should continue to do so. And it has practically no competition.

Vertex focuses primarily on treating cystic fibrosis (CF) right now. The big biotech markets the only approved CF drugs that address the underlying cause of the genetic disease. Last year, Vertex raked in nearly $4.2 billion in sales with earnings of nearly $1.2 billion. 

Those figures will undoubtedly be much higher in 2020 for three reasons. First, Trikafta kicked in sales of more than $895 million in Q1, its first full quarter on the market in the U.S. Second, Vertex should win European approval for Trikafta this year. Third, the company secured additional reimbursement deals that should pave the way for higher international sales of its other CF drugs. Meanwhile, no other company has a competitive CF drug past phase 2 clinical testing, giving Vertex a monopoly in CF for now.

Vertex is also expanding beyond CF, with phase 2 programs targeting pain, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD), and APOL1-mediated kidney diseases. It partnered with CRISPR Therapeutics on gene-editing therapy CTX001, which is currently being evaluated in treating rare blood diseases beta-thalassemia and sickle cell disease. Vertex’s 2019 acquisition of Semma Therapeutics gave it a promising gene therapy that holds the potential to cure type 1 diabetes. The company plans to advance this candidate into phase 1 testing by early 2021.

2. Bristol Myers Squibb

Sure, Bristol Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) is typically viewed as a big pharma stock rather than a biotech stock. But the drugmaker’s acquisition of Celgene last year qualifies it as a biotech — and a really attractive one.

Thanks to the Celgene purchase, BMS now has three new blockbusters: blood cancer drugs Revlimid and Pomalyst, plus solid tumor drug Abraxane. It also has several new drugs that have blockbuster potential: Zeposia in multiple sclerosis, Reblozyl for treating anemia in transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia and myelodysplastic syndromes, and myelofibrosis drug Inrebic. These are great additions to BMS’ already-strong lineup featuring anticoagulant Eliquis, cancer immunotherapy Opdivo, and immunology drug Orencia.

Bristol Myers Squibb also boasts an impressive pipeline. It hopes to pick up additional approved indications for several existing drugs, including Eliquis, Opdivo, and Zeposia. The company has especially high expectations for late-stage CAR-T therapies ide-cel and liso-cel, both of which the Celgene acquisition brought to the table for BMS.

On top of all of this, BMS also offers investors another big bonus with its solid dividend. Its dividend currently yields close to 3%. With the potential for the company to deliver earnings growth in the high teens over the next five years, this stock looks like a great pick for June.

3. Madrigal Pharmaceuticals

Unlike Vertex and Bristol Myers Squibb, Madrigal Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:MDGL) doesn’t have any approved products on the market. It’s not profitable. So Madrigal is a lot riskier than my other two top biotech picks for June. However, I like its long-term prospects.

Madrigal’s sole drug in clinical testing is resmetirom (MGL-3196). The company is evaluating the drug in late-stage studies targeting nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). In addition, Madrigal has another experimental drug, MGL-3745, in preclinical testing for treating NASH and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol or triglycerides). 

The biopharmaceutical company reported promising new data in April from its late-stage studies of resmetirom. Patients receiving the drug had at least 50% (and some more than 60%) reductions in liver fat. Also, new analyses of phase 2 data showed that resmetirom was associated with a 64% NASH resolution. 

There currently aren’t any approved drugs for treating NASH, although Intercept Pharmaceuticals hopes for Ocaliva to become the first this year. Estimates for how big the NASH market could be are all over the map, but several drugmakers think it could be in the ballpark of $35 billion. If Madrigal achieves success with resmetirom — and I suspect it will — the stock will be worth a whole lot more than its current market cap of close to $1.8 billion.


Keith Speights owns shares of Bristol Myers Squibb and Vertex Pharmaceuticals. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Bristol Myers Squibb and CRISPR Therapeutics. The Motley Fool recommends Intercept Pharmaceuti

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