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5 Biotech Stocks in Focus as Race for Coronavirus Vaccine Heats Up

Ritujay Ghosh

On May 18, Moderna, Inc. MRNA said that its experimental COVID-19 vaccine, the first to be tested in the United States, produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers. The levels of antibodies were similar to those in blood samples of patients, who have recovered from COVID-19.

This reignited hopes of a coronavirus vaccine soon becoming a reality and sent the company’s shares rallying. This also drove Wall Street to its best day in six weeks. Vaccines are now seen as the only hope of stopping or even slowing a disease that has infected more than five million people worldwide, killed 315,000 and locked down entire countries, paralyzing their economies.

A number of drugmakers and biotech companies are initiating development of drugs, vaccines and therapies for CODID-19 and substantial progress has been made over the past month, with many pharmaceuticalcompanies coming up with impressive reports.

Moderna Tastes Success

Moderna on May 18 said that the test results of the first doses of the vaccine candidate mRNA-1273 was found to be safe on the 45 participants and well tolerated in the early stage study. The participants were given three different doses of the experimental vaccine candidate. The drugmaker said that it saw dose-dependent increase in immunogenicity, which means the drug's ability to generate antibodies to provoke and immune response in the patient's body.

Moderna said two weeks after the second dose or approximately 43 days after the first dose, it was seen that levels of binding antibodies in the group that was administered a 25 microgram dose were found to be almost similar in blood samples of patients who have recovered from COVID-19. Also, the vaccine successfully produced neutralizing antibodies against COVID-19 in at least eight participants. This seems to be a big breakthrough given that experts have been saying that neutralizing antibodies appear to be important in acquiring protection against the virus.

Biotech Companies Speed Up R&D, Manufacturing

A number of biotech companies and pharmaceutical giants have joined forces to develop and manufacture vaccine for treating the novel coronavirus. Last month, Sanofi SNY and GlaxoSmithKline plc GSK collaborated to expedite the development of a vaccine for the Wuhan virus. Sanofi recently said that if successful, the vaccine would be available in the second half of 2021.

Although a vaccine is yet to be developed, many companies have already started ramping up manufacturing of the experimental vaccines they are working on. German pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Inc. PFE, which is working in collaboration with BioNTech SE BNTX, recently said that a coronavirus vaccine could be ready for emergency use as early as September.

Earlier this month, Moderna said that it could start manufacturing its yet-unconfirmed COVID-19 vaccine as early as July after it entered a 10-year deal with Swiss contract drugmaker Lonza.

A lot of money is being pumped in by biotech companies and drugmakers in research and development of a vaccine to treat the novel coronavirus. Given this scenario, it is prudent to say that keeping a close eye on stocks focused on developing a coronavirus vaccine or treatment would be a wise decision.

CytoDyn Inc CYDY is a biotechnology company testing its experimental drug leronlimab in two types of COVID-19 patients. The investigational therapy hasn’t been approved for any indication. For COVID-19, it is being proposed as a treatment for mild-to-moderate respiratory complications as well as severely and critically ill patients.

The company’s expected earnings growth rate for the current year is 4.8%. The company’s shares have rallied 39.1% in the past 30 days. CytoDyn carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Gilead GILD earlier this month received an emergency-use authorization from the FDA based on preliminary results from two clinical trials of its experimental coronavirus drug remdesivir. Results showed that patients taking the drug had a median recovery time of 11 days compared with 15 days for those taking placebo.

The company’s expected earnings growth rate for the next year is 1.4%. The company’s shares have rallied 15.1% year to date. Gilead has a Zacks Rank #2.

In April, Amgen, Inc. AMGN and Adaptive, Inc. ADPT collaborated to work on antibodies that can be used to prevent or treat COVID-19.  Amgen also plans to test Otezla as a COVID-19 therapy treating respiratory distress in late-stage patients in the coming days.

Amgen and Adaptive’s expected earnings growth rate for the current year is 5.1% and 7.9%, respectively. Amagen and Adaptive each carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc REGN is working on developing monoclonal antibodies as treatments for COVID-19. The name of the treatment is REGN-COV2. The company’s VelocImmune platform uses genetically engineered mice with humanized immune systems in preclinical testing. 

The company’s expected earnings growth rate for the current year is 11.6%. The company’s shares have rallied 1% in the past 30 days. Regeneron has a Zacks Rank #2.

5 Stocks Set to Double

Each was hand-picked by a Zacks expert as the #1 favorite stock to gain +100% or more in 2020. Each comes from a different sector and has unique qualities and catalysts that could fuel exceptional growth.

Most of the stocks in this report are flying under Wall Street radar, which provides a great opportunity to get in on the ground floor.

Today, See These 5 Potential Home Runs >>

Click to get this free report Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (REGN) : Free Stock Analysis Report Sanofi (SNY) : Free Stock Analysis Report Pfizer Inc. (PFE) : Free Stock Analysis Report Gilead Sciences, Inc. (GILD) : Free Stock Analysis Report Moderna, Inc. (MRNA) : Free Stock Analysis Report GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK) : Free Stock Analysis Report Amgen Inc. (AMGN) : Free Stock Analysis Report CytoDyn Inc. (CYDY) : Free Stock Analysis Report Adaptive Biotechnologies Corporation (ADPT) : Free Stock Analysis Report BioNTech SE Sponsored ADR (BNTX) : Free Stock Analysis Report To read this article on Zacks.com click here. Zacks Investment Research