The coronavirus has now made its way to six continents, creating widespread panic across the globe and causing drug companies to race to find a cure. Biotech stocks, both large and small, are working around the clock to come up with a solution to stop the spread of the deadly virus, which has already resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), drugs that treat patients who are already infected with the coronavirus will likely reach the market a lot quicker than vaccines to prevent it, as getting a vaccination ready for pivotal testing can take months.
Although the process of developing a vaccine could take longer than developing a treatment, there are already several being developed and tested on animals. Some even expect to begin human testing later this year.
At the same time, there are potential coronavirus treatments coming down the pipeline.
So, which small-cap biotech stocks are developing drugs and vaccines to either prevent or treat the coronavirus?
Novavax Inc. (NASDAQ:NVAX)
Late-stage biotechnology company Novavax Inc. (NASDAQ:NVAX) is one of the small-cap biotech stocks that is focused on developing a vaccine to protect against the coronavirus. The company revealed Wednesday that is has commenced animal testing for its novel COVID-19 vaccine and expects to move onto human testing by the end of the spring.
Novavax, which has a proven track record of rapid vaccine development against emerging viruses, created the coronavirus vaccine candidates by using its proprietary recombinant protein nanoparticle technology platform to generate antigens derived from the coronavirus spike protein.
“Our previous experience working with other coronaviruses, including both MERS and SARS, allowed us to mobilize quickly against COVID-19 and successfully complete the critical preliminary steps to engineer viable vaccine candidates,” said Novavax President and CEO Stanley C. Erck. “Now that the protein has been expressed stably in our baculovirus system, we aim to identify the optimal candidate and scale up production of sufficient vaccine for preliminary clinical trials.”
Unsurprisingly, the market is reacting favorably to the company’s progress with the vaccine. On Thursday, shares of Novavax went up by US$2.58, or +27.98%, to US$11.80 on the Nasdaq. In the last five days, the company’s stock has increased by a whopping 53.75% and could climb higher still.
Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO)
Of all the small-cap biotech stocks to watch amid the coronavirus outbreak, Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO) could be the closest to bringing a vaccine to market. The company announced that is working with Bejing Advaccine Biotechnology Co. to advance its INO-4800 coronavirus vaccine in China.
The news came just one week after Inovio revealed that the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is providing the company with up to $9 million to develop the vaccine. The initial funding from CEPI supports preclinical and clinical development through Phase 1 human testing of the INO-4800 vaccine.
According to Inovio President and CEO, the company’s DNA medicine platform “represents the best modern-day approach to combatting emerging pandemics” and noted that Inovio already demonstrated positive clinical outcomes for its MERS-CoV vaccine.
Inovio plans to rapidly develop INO-4800 against the new coronavirus and has already begun preclinical testing and preparations for clinical product manufacturing.
Like Novavax, Inovio stock has been on the rise in the last week. The company’s stock has gone up 21% since last Friday, 9.27% of which was gained on Thursday alone. Investors who are interested in small-cap biotech stocks should definitely consider keeping an eye on this company.
Meridian Bioscience Inc. (NASDAQ:VIVO)
Meridian Biosciences Inc. (NASDAQ:VIVO) is not one of the typical biotech stocks you’d expect to see on this list of companies involved in the fight against the coronavirus. However, the diagnostics company gained a slice of the action late last month when it announced that one of its reagents is being utilized in the development of molecular diagnostics for the coronavirus.
Indeed, laboratories in China are using Meridian’s freeze-dried Lyo-Ready 1-Step RT q-PCR mix to develop fast, accurate, and stable screening assays. According to the company’s product marketing manager, Dr. Steve Hawkins, the ready-to-use lyophilization-friendly mix is “designed to improve the accuracy of assays, increase operational efficiencies and reduce their overall costs, making screening fast and affordable.”
Like the other biotech stocks on the list, Meridian’s share price has gone up in the last week as fear mounts around the coronavirus. The company’s stock increased by 9.24% on Thursday to US$8.16. This recent uptick is encouraging after the company saw its share price decrease more than 40% in the last year.
BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:BCRX)
Unlike the other biotech stocks on the list, BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:BCRX) has an antiviral drug that has the potential of treating individuals who have already been infected with the coronavirus.
The company’s Galidesivir (BCX4430) treatment has shown survival benefits against deadly viruses like Ebola, Yellow fever, Marburg, and Zika. At present, the treatment is in the advanced development stage under the Animal Rule to fight against potential viral threats such as coronaviruses, bunyaviruses, flaviviruses filoviruses, arenaviruses. paramyxoviruses, and togaviruses.
The early stage of the drug’s development may prevent any material contribution to the coronavirus outbreak, so BioCryst Pharmaceuticals may be able to offer some very useful data. Investors seem to agree with that sentiment, as the company’s share price has seen some serious activity in the last week. On Thursday, BioCryst stock was up 8.5% to US$2.74.
While it remains to be seen which company will come out with a treatment or vaccination to combat the coronavirus, it’s clear that these biotech stocks are in the running.
Are there any small-cap biotech stocks on your radar that could benefit from the coronavirus? Let us know in the comments!
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