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COVID-19 – The Race to a Vaccine

The 2nd Wave

The 2nd wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit Europe hard. As a result, a number of countries across the EU have had little choice but to reintroduce lockdown measures.

Britain has also reintroduced lockdown measures across England this week.

For the U.S, things are not much better. New daily COVID-19 cases continue to set new records as the West enters an uncertain winter.

The economic devastation from the 1st wave could pale into insignificance when considering the likely impact of the 2nd wave.

For this very reason, the race towards an effective and widely available COVID-19 vaccine is all the more important.

Until an effective vaccine is readily available, containment measures, border control, and more will remain economically debilitating.

The Race Participants

There are a vast number of pharma companies that are currently in the race to deliver the 1st effective COVID-19 vaccine.

Some of these companies are researching more drugs than others, suggesting that they may be more likely to deliver first. Others may argue, however, that having too many varieties to test will result in a lack of progress.

The companies are shown in the chart below


While the companies listed above are trialing 60 different drugs and vaccines, as at 28th October, there were reportedly 674 drugs and vaccines in development, targeting COVID-19.

The figures are made available by statista.com and Pharma Intelligence.

Looking at the top 10 companies listed above and a few more in more detail:

U.S Headquartered

EpiVax: Unlisted and headquartered in Providence, USA.

Mateon Therapeutics: Listed on OTCMKTS (“MATN”) and headquartered in California.

Merck & Co.: Listed on the New York Stock Exchange (“MRK”) and headquartered in New Jersey, USA.

Moderna Inc.: Listed on the NASDAQ (“MRNA”) and headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Pfizer Inc.: Listed on the New York Stock Exchange (“PFE”) and headquartered in New York City. (Pfizer Inc. has partnered with Germany’s BioNTech SE)

Sorrento Therapeutics: Listed on the NASDAQ (“SRNE”) and headquartered in California. Currently trailing many of the front runners in the race for an effective vaccine.

Talem Therapeutics: This is a wholly-owned subsidiary of ImmunoPrecise Antibodies USA. Its parent company, ImmunoPrecise Antibodies Ltd is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Tonix Pharmaceuticals: Listed on the NASDAQ (“TNXP”) and headquartered in New Jersey.

Europe Headquartered

AstraZeneca: Listed on the London Stock Exchange (“AZN”) and headquartered in Cambridge, England and Sodertalje, Sweden.

GlaxoSmithKline: Listed on the London Stock Exchange (“GSK”) and headquartered in Brentford, England.

Grifols, S.A: Listed on the Bolsa de Madrid (“GRF”) and headquartered in Barcelona, Spain.

Asia Headquartered:

GC Pharma: Listed on the Korea Stock Exchange (“006280”) and headquartered in Yongin, South Korea.

As indicated above, the U.S pharmas make up the lion’s share of companies in the race to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine.

Coronavirus – The Latest Numbers

When considering the fact that the U.S has recorded an alarming 9,919,522 COVID-19 cases and 240,953 COVID-19 related deaths, it is not surprising that Pharma U.S is leading the charge.

Looking at the latest Coronavirus figures, the total number of cases currently sits at 49.031. While 34.98m have reportedly recovered, there have been 1.24m reported deaths.

For Europe and the U.S, the number of cases reported amidst the 2nd wave has been far more significant than in the 1st wave.

When considering the fact that the winter has just begun, these numbers are likely to balloon further.

For the Global Economy, the key to any recovery rests on finding an effective vaccine and soon. Failure to successfully trial a vaccine by the end of the year will leave the world exposed for another full quarter.

Larger multinational companies may be able to tighten the belt. Small to medium-sized companies, however, will begin to shut down in far greater numbers than seen in the 1st wave.

The damage to the economy would be so severe that some nations will be in the economic wilderness for a decade if not more.

So, having identified the key players in the race to an effective COVID-19 vaccine, the next step is to understand at what stage of clinical trials each currently stands.

The Clinical Trials

Companies that are more advanced may not ultimately reach the end goal first, but they do have a greater chance.

For this reason, share prices have tended to reflect how advanced and successful trials have been to date.

According to Pharmaintellgence.informa.com,

Of the total 674 drugs, 510 are currently in the preclinical trial phase. This means that the vast majority may not make it to clinical trials.

Of the remainder:

  • 49 are currently in phase 1 clinical trial.
  • 75 are in phase 2, and
  • 28 are in phase 3.

Taking a closer look at the current trials testing drugs for the treatment and/or prevention of COVID-19 fund in Trialtrove, the breakdown in phases is as follows:

  • I: 431
  • II: 1,728
  • III: 1,011
  • IV: 327

From the numbers above, it is clear that the sector is making strong progress towards effective treatment and/or vaccine.

The Front Runners

  • AstraZeneca (“AZN”) announced this week that they are on track to deliver a vaccine as early as this year. The company is due to deliver test results by the end of the year. AstraZeneca is working with the University of Oxford to deliver an effective vaccine.
  • Moderna Inc. (“MRNA”) is reportedly getter ready for a global launch. In late October, the company stated that it had already accepted in excess of $1bn in deposits from governments. Late-stage trials are underway.
  • Pfizer Inc. (“PFE”) and BioNTech SE have announced that they may release initial late-stage trial data this month. If results are positive, Pfizer Inc. will apply from the FDA for emergency use authorization.

While the above are in their final stages, there are a number of other pharmas also making progress.

FDA approvals, however, may be hard to come by for pharmas looking to enter the largest COVID-19 market. That will, therefore, give the likes of Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. the upper hand for now. The flood gates could open, however, should both hit snags at this late stage. Such an event could give AstraZeneca a green light to enter the U.S market.

In the days and weeks ahead, we will continue to monitor progress towards a vaccine and review other pharmas in the race.