Coronavirus stocks working on COVID-19 cures and treatments

Could one of these biotechs be the gold mine of the decade?

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It probably comes as no surprise that some of the best performing (albeit volatile) stocks of the last few weeks are companies that claim to be hunting for the COVID-19 cure.

The reason for this is two-fold. First, biotechs and health companies are among the sectors that will always be needed, even during a recession. This means they’re likely to be less impacted than other sectors in the long term.

The other side is that investors know that finding a COVID-19 cure is akin to hitting a gold mine.

Just to be clear, no-one knows whether a cure will be found any time soon. No cure has been found for either MERS or SARS to date, even though it’s been several years since their outbreak.

Yet COVID-19 is a threat unlike any we’ve faced. The global rallying effort might prove to be more successful than previous ventures. If you’re among the hopefuls, below is a list of some of the companies leading the way in a search for the COVID-19 cure.

You’ll notice most of these companies are US-listed. New Zealand researchers on the case are largely part of unlisted organisations. There are currently three trials being held in New Zealand, led by the Medical Research Institute with almost $1 million of funding from the state-run Health Research Council of New Zealand.

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1. Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: GILD)

Gilead is a biopharmaceutical company listed on the NASDAQ that researches, develops and produces new medicines for life threatening illnesses.

Its stock price jumped in March after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave it the green light for funding towards one of its experimental drugs (and touted potential cure) Remdesivir. It started enrolling test patients in March, with results expected to be out some time in May.


2. Atomo Diagnostics (ASX: AT1)

Atomo Diagnostics is an Australian medical device company working on the development and commercialisation of COVID-19 testing kits.

It made waves mid April as one of the rare 2020 listings on the ASX, immediately jumping from its IPO price of 20 cents to 52 cents within its first two days.

According to the company, it pivoted from producing HIV testing kits – which requires a pin prick of blood and takes just 15 minutes for results to show – to COVID-19 kits once the pandemic struck. While still in talks with US and Australian healthcare companies, it has entered an agreement for the sale of 947,200 test kits to French diagnostics company NG Biotech.

The company also gets props as being part of Global Health Investment Fund portfolio headed by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


3. Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ)

Johnson & Johnson is well known for providing household healthcare products, but it also works in medicinal research and development.

In late January it announced it was working towards the development of a vaccine for COVID-19 through its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies while collaborating with healthcare regulators. While the company’s share price has fallen around 20% since the February peak along with other major companies, in the last week it has rebounded by more than 10%.


4. Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA)

US biotech Moderna is focused on the development of new drugs through stem-cell technology and is one of the first in the world to begin human testing trials for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Its share price has jumped by more than 100% since COVID-19 became a global pandemic and governments in Europe and the US offered large funding rounds in support of its efforts to find a vaccine.

On April 16 the company announced it was a receiving a US$483 million government grant to accelerate the development and large-scale production of a coronavirus vaccine.


5. Inovio Pharmaceuticals (INO)

Inovio is a US biopharmaceutical company that develops treatments for infectious diseases and cancers.

The company announced in late January it was developing a vaccine for the new coronavirus and was awarded US$9 million for its efforts by health regulators. It has since received a further $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is set to start human trials of a COVID-19 vaccine in April.


6. VIR Biotechnology, Inc. (NASDAQ: VIR)

Immunology company VIR has seen its stock price jump around 60% in the last month largely on the hopes that it will be the first to find a cure.

This week it announced it was moving forward with two candidates and is due to start human trials between June to August. VIR is also working with Chinese company WuXi Biologics. If a vaccine is approved it will be commercialised in China through WuXi and marketed to the rest of the world under VIR.


7. Mesoblast (ASX: MSB)

Mesoblast Limited is an Australian medicinal company that offers treatment for inflammatory ailments and cardiovascular disease.

In early March its share price jumped around 20% in a day after it announced it was working on a treatment to aid COVID-19 patients with signs of respiratory distress. Testing is set to take place in the US, Europe, China and Australia.


8. Cynata Therapeutics (ASX:CYP)

Cynata is an Australian stem-cell research company listed on the ASX in 2013.

Similar to Mesoblast, Cynata is focused on the treatment of COVID-19 patients with severe respiratory symptoms through its stem-cell technology. Although its stock price jumped around 8% in early March, its share price is down almost 30% in the last month.


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