The race to bring a viable COVID-19 vaccine to market gathered steam this week. On Monday, Moderna announced positive results from the Phase 1 trial evaluating its experimental vaccine, mRNA-1273.
H.C. Wainwright analyst Robert Burns believes the positive data bodes well for BioNTech’s (BNTX) vaccine program, BNT162. As it happens, out of the numerous companies developing vaccines, the 5-star analyst thinks the two are the most likely to come up with the desperately needed solution.
However, Burns argues BioNTech’s platform has “certain advantages vs. Moderna's approach.”
BioNTech and Pfizer are working together to evaluate four different BNT162 mRNA vaccine candidates. Two of which have nucleoside-modified mRNA (modRNA), one has uridine-containing mRNA (uRNA) and the fourth candidate makes use of self-amplifying mRNA (saRNA).
“We see advantages to using a uRNA or saRNA backbone over a modRNA approach (e.g., Moderna's approach). These include a stronger CD8 T-cell response with a uRNA backbone and the potential for longer-term immunogenicity with a saRNA backbone,” Burns opined.
Nevertheless, Burns sees mRNA-1273's initial positive data as good news for BNT162, with it raising “the probability of approval for BNT162 to 35% from the prior 20%.” It should be noted that initial Phase 1 data for BNT162 is expected in June or July.
Moreover, for investors looking to choose between the two vaccine players, Burns highlights BNTX’s other advantages. At $24.4 billion, Moderna’s market cap is more than twice that of BioNTech’s, which is currently valued at $11.7 billion. Therefore, “based on the value that the market currently places on Moderna,” the potential for further upside resides with the smaller company.
Additionally, BioNTech has Pfizer, a global pharma powerhouse “that possesses a lengthy track record in the vaccine arena,” as its partner.
All of the above reasons prompted Burns to upgrade BioNtech from Neutral to Buy, and raise the price target from $48 to $69. Investors stand to pocket a 34% gain should the analyst’s thesis play out over the coming months. (To watch Burns’ track record, click here)
What does the rest of the Street have in mind for BNTX? 2 Buys and 2 Holds add up to a Moderate Buy consensus rating. The average price target hits $55.33 and implies possible upside of 7%. (See BioNTech stock analysis on TipRanks)
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