Living in Washington, D.C., it’s good to see that COVID-19 cases, which peaked on April 30, continue to decline. As a result, restaurants, retail stores, and some barbershops have started to open in a limited capacity.
But that reopening isn’t happening everywhere.
There are still thousands of new cases daily across the United States and many states that have started to open back up such as Texas, California, and Florida continue to see a rise in new COVID-19 cases.
If the spread of the coronavirus continues as states begin opening non-essential businesses, we could see a second wave of COVID-19 cases that could threaten to shut down cities and states again.
The good news is we’re finally starting to hear a lot more news from large pharmaceutical players about the drugs they are developing or backing.
AstraZeneca PLC. (AZN) is a great example of this as they recently reached an agreement with Europe’s Inclusive Vaccines Alliance to supply up to 400 million doses of Oxford University’s COVID-19 vaccine at no profit and a plan to start deliveries by at the end of 2020.
This type of partnership could end up being very successful with the dozens of small biotech companies like Moderna Inc. (MRNA) and Sorrento Therapeutics Inc. (SRNE) that are developing vaccine candidates. If they get to a vaccine first and are not able to manufacture at scale, large partners will show up to help.
And there are two more important updates about the search for a coronavirus cure that I want to focus on today…
Fighting the Coronavirus
Eli Lilly and Co. (LLY), with its $135 billion market cap, is an American pharmaceutical company that recently said it could have a drug specifically designed to treat COVID-19 as early as September of this year if all goes well with the two antibody therapies it is testing. That’s only three short months away.
The drugs it is testing are a type of antibody-drug called monoclonal antibodies. Simply put, they are molecules that are engineered to attach to defects in cells and mimic the antibodies the body already produced as part of our immune response.
The advantage of this type of drug and why they believe they can get a vaccine out so fast is that this type of biotech medicine is currently being used to treat diseases and conditions such as cancer and arthritis. According to Eli Lilly’s Chief Scientific Officer Daniel Sokvronsky, this type of drug is more likely to be effective than repurposing a current drug to fight against the virus.
Right now, Eli Lilly has initiated patient testing for two separate antibody treatments along with a third that could work alongside the other two.
If everything works out, it has the capacity to make hundreds of thousands of doses by the end of the year. While the better solution is to widely inoculate people with a vaccine when available, this could help people who have the disease or who were recently exposed.
It could also help aging or sick people like nursing home patients, where vaccines tend to not work as well.
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) is another large pharmaceutical company that is also developing a vaccine. JNJ began production of its trial COVID-19 vaccine in April and has set a high bar for themselves in getting through its trials quickly.
As one of the five vaccine programs that have been designated by the Trump administration to be the most likely to produce a working COVID-19 vaccine, there could be a lot of promise here.
The company recently announced that it is accelerating its vaccine candidate with its Phase 1/2a clinical trial to begin in the second half of July, which was initially scheduled to begin in September.
According to Paul Stoffels, J&J’s Chief Scientific Officer, “based on the strength of the preclinical data we have seen so far and interactions with the regulatory authorities, we have been able to further accelerate the clinical development of our investigational SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.” On top of that, the company is already in discussions with the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to start Phase 3 trials early. While this may be planning far ahead, it is nice to see regulatory agencies understand the need to get a vaccine out as soon as possible and help accelerate programs that might be successful in treating COVID-19
As J&J progresses its clinical development, it is also increasing its manufacturing capacity. Assuming the vaccine is safe and effective, they are committed to the goal of supplying more than 1 billion doses globally through the end of 2021.
The COVID-19 Investor’s Portfolio
Now, while J&J is doing some very promising work, the stock price is unlikely to climb high enough anytime soon to offer life-changing wealth.
I think that the real advantage in this race goes to lower-cap, innovative biotech firms. In fact, Michael Robinson has been doing his own research on the subject.
He thinks he’s found the small-cap firms that have the best odds of getting the first effective COVID-19 vaccine to market and stopping the spread of the pandemic once and for all.
Not only that, these are the companies that Michael thinks have the best chance to see transformative returns on their investments in stopping COVID-19.
Just click here to learn more about what he’s discovered.