Which COVID-19 stocks are leading the vaccine race?

Posted: 30 September 2020 2:15 am
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One dollar bill with a face mask

Hundreds of companies are developing candidate COVID-19 vaccines, but only a handful are in the final stage.

As lives and economies continue to be disrupted at a global scale, pressure mounts to find a COVID-19 vaccine.

Earlier this year, as the coronavirus pandemic spread around the world, hundreds of organizations took up the challenge of developing a vaccine. To date, there are 151 vaccines in development, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), but only 10 have reached Phase 3 trials.

This is an important milestone. Phase 3 allows organizations to begin testing on large numbers of people – typically tens or hundreds of thousands of volunteers from around the world. It’s the final major hurdle before approval can be granted for licensing.

Unfortunately, this process can’t be rushed. Despite promises made by President Donald Trump of a vaccine being made available this year, Phase 3 trials typically take many months — even years — to complete. Only one vaccine is expected to complete its testing by 2021. The remaining vaccines expect to conclude their Phase 3 testing between 2022 and 2023.

Of the 10 vaccines on the frontline, 4 are being developed in China, 1 is in Russia and several others are in the US or from multinational organizations. Not all are publicly listed, although most (aside from Russian Gamaleya Research Institute) have partnered with a listed company.

As far as stock performance goes, many have seen staggering success. So far this year, British firm NovaVax has seen its stock price rise 2,400%, US biotech Moderna has risen 267% and Chinese vaccine maker CanSino Biologics is up 167%.

With so much resting on a cure, it makes sense that investors are bullish. But with so many companies joining the hunt – many of which have only recently listed – it’s not always easy to work out which ones have the most or the least potential.

Below are the 10 publicly listed companies whose vaccine candidates have reached Phase 3 testing.

Note: Study completion dates are estimates made by the researchers at the time they started the study, as published by WHO.


Listed companies at Phase 3 trials


1. AstraZeneca (NASDAQ: AZN)

AstraZeneca is a British multinational pharmaceutical company headquartered in Cambridge. It partnered with Oxford University to begin trials on a COVID-19 vaccine in July this year.

  • YTD performance (to September 29th): 9.30%
  • Market capitalization: $145.69 billion
  • Study start date: August 17, 2020
  • Estimated completion date: October 5, 2022


2. Sinovac Biotech Ltd (NASDAQ: SVA)

Sinovac Biotech is a Chinese biotechnology company headquartered in Beijing. It expects to begin analyzing final-stage data from human trials this year.

  • YTD performance (to September 29th): 15.1%
  • Market capitalization: $460.249 million
  • Study start date: July 21, 2020
  • Estimated study completion: October 2021

3. Pfizer Inc (NYSE: PFE)

Pfizer Inc is a US pharmaceutical company. It has partnered with German biotech company BioNTech and Chinese pharmaceutical firm Fosun Pharma to trial and manufacture a vaccine candidate.

  • YTD performance (to September 29th): -7.12%
  • Market capitalization: $202.215 billion
  • Study start date: April 29, 2020
  • Estimated completion date: November 14, 2022


4. Sinopharm (HKEX: 1099)

Sinopharm Group is a Chinese pharmaceuticals company currently trialing two vaccine candidates in partnership with the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products and the Beijing Institute of Biological Products. Both vaccines are in Phase 3 human testing as of September.

  • YTD performance (to September 29th): -41.39%
  • Market capitalization: $51.645 billion
  • Study start date: July 18, 2020
  • Estimated completion date: Unknown

5. Moderna Inc (NASDAQ: MRNA)

Moderna is an American biotechnology company. In April 2020, it received a $483 million grant from the US government to accelerate the development of a coronavirus vaccine in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In August 2020, it entered Phase 3 human trials.

  • YTD performance (to September 29th): 266.87%
  • Market capitalization: $27.838 billion
  • Study start date: July 27, 2020
  • Estimated completion date: October 27, 2022


6. CanSino Biologics (HKEX: 6185)

CanSino Biologics is a Chinese vaccine maker working in partnership with the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology to trial a COVID-19 vaccine. Governments in Mexico, Pakistan and Russia have all agreed to begin Phase 3 testing using CanSino’s vaccine candidate.

  • YTD performance (to September 29th): 167.34%
  • Market capitalization: $56.688 billion
  • Study start date: September 15, 2020
  • Estimated completion date: January 30, 2022

7. Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ)

American pharmaceutical corporation Johnson & Johnson is the parent company of Janssen Vaccines & Prevention. Janssen began Phase 3 testing of a COVID-19 vaccine in September 2020.

  • YTD performance (to September 29th): 0.85%
  • Market capitalization: $387.314 billion
  • Study start date: September 7, 2020
  • Estimated completion date: March 10, 2023


8. Novavax Inc (NASDAQ: NVAX)

Novavax is a US vaccine development firm headquartered in Maryland. It started Phase 3 human trials in the UK in mid-September.

  • YTD performance (to September 29th): 2,404.05%
  • Market capitalization: $6.813 billion
  • Study start date: July 27, 2020
  • Estimated completion date: October 27, 2022


9. BioNTech (NASDAQ: BNTX)

BioNTech is a German biotechnology company. It has partnered with Chinese pharmaceutical firm Fosun Pharma and US pharmaceutical company Pfizer to trial and manufacture a vaccine candidate.

  • YTD performance (to September 29th): 96.28%
  • Market capitalization: $15.884 billion
  • Study start date: April 29, 2020
  • Estimated completion date: November 14, 2022


10. Fosun Pharma (HKEX: 2196)

Fosun Pharma is a Chinese pharmaceutical firm. It has partnered with German biotech company BioNTech and US pharmaceutical company Pfizer to trial and manufacture a vaccine candidate.

  • YTD performance (to September 29th): 37.18%
  • Market capitalization: $84.576 billion
  • Study start date: April 29, 2020
  • Estimated completion date: November 14, 2022

How to buy COVID-19 stocks

A number of the listed companies working on a COVID-19 cure are from countries outside the US. And most US brokerages only offer access to domestic stock exchanges, like the NYSE and NASDAQ.

That said, some international companies dual-list in the US, like AstraZeneca and Sinovac Biotech. Both can be accessed on the NASDAQ.

But if you’d like to invest in any of the others, be prepared to open an international brokerage account with a platform that offers access to global markets, like Charles Schwab, Fidelity or Interactive Brokers. These brokerages can connect you to overseas exchanges, but consider the platform’s fees and exchange rates before you apply.

Disclaimer: The value of any investment can go up or down depending on news, trends and market conditions. We are not investment advisers, so do your own due diligence to understand the risks before you invest.

Photo: Supplied

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