Australia markets closed

Pfizer, Regeneron Give Update on Coronavirus Drug Development

Kinjel Shah

Several drug/biotech companies are working on making new antibodies, drugs and vaccines to combat the coronavirus disease, COVID-19 and there are new developments every day.

On Tuesday, two big drug/biotech companies, Pfizer PFE and Regeneron REGN made announcements related to their coronavirus drug development efforts

Pfizer to Co-Develop German Biotech’s Potential Coronavirus Vaccine

Pfizer has agreed to a letter of intent to co-develop Germany-based biotech BioNTech’s BNTX mRNA-based vaccine candidate BNT162 to prevent COVID-19. Pfizer will also co-distribute (excluding China) the mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine if it gets to the market.

BNT162 is presently in pre-clinical testing and is expected to enter clinical studies in April. The companies are already jointly developing an mRNA-based influenza vaccine, per a deal signed in 2018. Meanwhile, Pfizer is also working to develop antiviral therapies to fight COVID-19.

Pfizer’s shares were up 6.6% on Tuesday as markets recovered after Monday’s sell-off. However, this year so far, the stock has declined 17.9% compared with a decrease of18.1% for the industry.

 

 

 

Regeneron Identifies Numerous Coronavirus Antibodies

Regeneron, on Tuesday, said it has identified hundreds of virus-neutralizing, fully human antibodies from which it will select the top two antibodies to develop a cocktail treatment to treat or prevent COVID-19. It had identified these antibodies from genetically modified mice and from humans who had recovered from COVID-19. It plans to initiate clinical studies on a potential COVID-19 candidate by early summer. It aims to begin large-scale manufacturing of the antibody cocktail therapy by mid-April.

The news comes a day after Regeneron and partner Sanofi SNY announced the initiation of a U.S. based phase II/III study to evaluate their rheumatoid arthritis (RA) drug, Kevzara, to treat patients hospitalized with severe infection due to COVID-19. While Regeneron will lead the U.S. studies, Sanofi will take care of the ex-U.S. studies, which will be initiated in the coming weeks. Kevzara is an anti-interleukin (IL)-6 receptor monoclonal antibody and the companies believe than in critically-ill COVID-19 patients, the IL-6 pathway may play an important role in driving overactive inflammatory response in the lungs and emerge as a treatment option.

Regeneron has an agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for manufacturing antibodies targeting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Regeneron’s shares were up 11.6% on Tuesday. Its stock has held up quite well amid the market sell-off. This year so far, the stock has risen 31% against a decrease of 19.2% for the industry.

 

 

While Regeneron sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), Pfizer has a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Biotech Races Ahead in Drug/Vaccine Development Efforts

Gilead’s GILD investigational antiviral candidate, remdesivir, is being evaluated in phase III studies to treat COVID-19. CEPI has provided funding of around $24 million to biotechs like Moderna MRNA, Novavax, CureVac and Inovio to have potential vaccine candidates in early-stage clinical studies within a few months. Moderna leads among these companies in its vaccine development efforts. Earlier this week, Moderna announced that the first patient has been dosed in a phase I study on its mRNA-based vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273, targeting SARS-CoV-2. Please note that the study is being conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Several big drugmakers like J&J, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline have expressed interest in developing a vaccine for COVID-19. Others like Pfizer, Biogen and Lilly have signed collaborations with smaller biotechs to co-develop antibody therapies to treat COVID-19. 

Smaller biotechs like Vaxart, Kamada, Inovio, Vir Biotechnology and Novavax are making an effort to leverage their existing technology/platform to identify antibodies/targets that can be developed into potential vaccines or treatments for COVID-19. Meanwhile, the FDA has granted Emergency Use Authorization to Roche’s test to detect SARS-CoV-2.

Conclusion

Faster development of any treatment or vaccine is the need of the hour not just to save lives but to help weakening worldwide economies to recover. Recently, the Federal Reserve and the White House took some steps to boost liquidity to ward-off the effect of the coronavirus outbreak on the global economy. However, though a treatment for COVID-19 could be available in 4-5 months, a vaccine is not expected to be ready before a year’s time.

Looking for Stocks with Skyrocketing Upside?

Zacks has just released a Special Report on the booming investment opportunities of legal marijuana.     

Ignited by new referendums and legislation, this industry is expected to blast from an already robust $6.7 billion to $20.2 billion in 2021. Early investors stand to make a killing, but you have to be ready to act and know just where to look.  

See the pot trades we're targeting>>


Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. 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
 
BioNTech SE Sponsored ADR (BNTX) : Free Stock Analysis Report
 
To read this article on Zacks.com click here.