Where Are They Now? A Weary World Watches Vaccine Developers

Covid-19 treatment developers all traded lower on Wednesday after earlier gains as impatience grows.

Author: CapitalWatch Staff   

The search for a Covid-19 cure is now top priority for biopharmaceutical companies as the coronavirus, which originated in China as early as November 2019, has so far led to 350,755 official fatalities around the globe and 5.6 million infections. On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that 10 experimental vaccines have reached human testing. What are they and at what stages of development? Today, we look at a few of the front-runners.

Novavax Inc. (Nasdaq: NVAX) – or SuperNovavax, as CW reporter Anthony Russo called the Maryland company in his coverage on Tuesday, the new gainer in the Covid-19 space. Novavax has begun human testing for its vaccine candidate, the NVX‑CoV2373. The company is conducting Phase 1 trials in Australia to assess safety and immune response to the vaccine, with results expected in July. The second phase will involve trials in several countries, including the United States, and assess safety, immunity, and disease reduction.

NVAX stock skyrocketed 15% to $54.50 per share on Tuesday following the announcement. It also sent the Dow up 530 points. On Wednesday morning, NVAX was down 7% on selloff, at $44.74 per share. That's still more than double its level of mid-May.

CanSino Biologics Inc. (HKEX: 6185) – this Chinese vaccine candidate showed promising Phase 1 results last week, published in the Lancet. The company has been conducting trials in the epicenter of the outbreak, Wuhan in Hubei province. The study showed that its Ad5-nCoV, the first among rivals to reach Phase 2 and to publish peer-reviewed data, appeared to be safe, well-tolerated, and able to trigger an immune response. Canada has also approved its Phase 2 trial application. Still, researchers cautioned against drawing quick conclusions as the development is still in the beginning stages and had some drawbacks, including adverse reactions in participants.

CanSino has also scored a deal with Vancouver's Precision NanoSystems to develop an mRNA lipid nanoparticle vaccine against Covid-19.

The stock in the Tianjin-based biotech closed at HK$174 on Wednesday in Hong Kong, though it has reached as high as HK$285.80 per share – compared with HK$60 a year ago.

Moderna Inc. (Nasdaq: MRNA) – this Cambridge-based firm is now running second to the cure with its mRNA-1273, expected to soon begin Phase 2 trials. With backing from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, it has seen some good results – specifically, that all 45 participants in the trial developed Covid-19 antibodies. However, some experts noted last week that preliminary data failed to show the candidate's efficacy, seeing missing data, as reported by Benzinga. Just like with CanSino, it is too early to tell.

Shares in Moderna are down nearly 10% intraday, at $52.05 apiece. Earlier in May, following positive results, it had surged to $87 per share. Still, since late February, the stock is up 181%.

AstraZeneca plc (NYSE: AZN) – in a team with Oxford, this British biopharma is developing AZD1222 (formerly ChAdOx1 nCoV-19) and is already taking orders. Last week, the team began to enroll participants for the Phase 2 clinical trial, intended for more than 10,000 people. AstraZeneca has just received $1.2 billion from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) for the Phase 3, expected to start this fall. It plans to use the funds to recruit 30,000 participants for this trial, as well as evaluate the vaccine in children, the company said. According to various sources, AstraZeneca prepares to deliver its first shot in September, though we have yet to see data from its Phase 1.

In New York, AZN stock was trading down 2% Wednesday, at $52.13 per share. Last week, its announcements sent AZN shares over $57 apiece. It hasn't seen such stark difference in value in contrast to its peers: A year ago, AZN was traded near $50 a share.

While Sorrento Therapeutics Inc. (Nasdaq: SRNE) is not developing a vaccine, its treatment candidate for the coronavirus is as worthy of mentioning. The California-based biotech is mixing up a cocktail of antibodies to block Covid's protein interaction with human cells. Recently, Sorrento announced that it has found its key antibody, STI-1499, which demonstrated "100% inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 virus infection of healthy cells after four days incubation." The study was conducted in vitro, but the company hopes to fast-track its approval for the commercialization of its treatment.

At the time of the announcement, SRN soared to $10 per share from about $2.60. Today, in line with the general slide on biopharma stocks, Sorrento was trading at $5.14 per share, down nearly 3% from yesterday's close. As reported by TipRanks, Dawson James analyst James Kolbert just issued a "buy" on Sorrento, with a $24 price target.

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