After Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) and Novavax (NASDAQ:NVAX) have brought potential vaccine to coronavirus into phase 3 studies, and their stocks jumped more than 650% and 3,290% respectively this year, two other biotech companies that are ultra-risky, but if they become winners of the next phase of the coronavirus vaccine and treatment races, their shares could soar. These two companies are:
Vaxart (NASDAQ:VXRT) which is developing a coronavirus vaccine that’s administered by way of an oral tablet. The company began its first human trial for the vaccine candidate in October and completed enrollment in early November. The vaccine is given in two doses, 28 days apart. Based on that timeframe, final dosing for all trial participants should be completed in the coming days. When Vaxart announced the start of the trial, it said it expected initial data “in the next few weeks.” So, it’s possible the company may generate some results before the end of the year.
Vaxart has two big advantages and they both have to do with the vaccine candidate’s tablet form. Injections aren’t involved, and a room temperature stable tablet is easier and cheaper to ship and store. So, if data are positive, Vaxart could be a winner thanks to logistical reasons in the long term.
And Vir Biotechnology (NASDAQ:VIR) which has five coronavirus product candidates spanning treatment and prevention in its pipeline. An antibody for early treatment is farthest along the development pathway. That candidate, VIR-7831, entered phase 3 trials in September. Enrollment continues, and the company expects interim data possibly in January. Vir plans to move its second antibody candidate into human trials in the first quarter of next year. Both VIR-7831 and this candidate work by neutralizing the virus.
The company’s other candidates remain in preclinical studies. They include antibodies for prevention and treatment, as well as an siRNA candidate meant to reduce viral replication.
If Vir’s antibodies make it successfully through trials and are eventually approved, they face competition. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently offered Emergency Use Authorization to Eli Lilly‘s (NYSE:LLY) and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals‘ (NASDAQ:REGN) antibody treatments. The risk here is whether Vir’s antibodies will be too late to grab a share of the market. Vir has one way of beating rivals, though. That is by demonstrating superior efficacy. The company’s CEO is confident, but only time and data will truly tell. A more efficacious product than rivals surely would be a big win for this company and its shareholders.
Some investors are considering investing in one or both companies, and Wall Street is bullish on both Vaxart and Vir. According to the average 12-month price forecast, Vaxart may climb 176%, and Vir might jump 93%. That could very well happen — if both companies’ coronavirus programs progress smoothly through clinical trials. And a product approval could push the shares even higher in the long term. But if their programs disappoint, losses can be devastating.
So, even though share potential may look tempting, investment in these stocks right now is best left to investors with a high tolerance for risk.