While the coronavirus has walloped the stock market this week, many traders have jumped into a safe haven: small-cap healthcare companies that are fighting the disease. For instance, Novavax (NVAX -7.42%) has been on a tear all year. The tiny biotech started off 2020 with its stock priced at $3.99 a share; now, the stock sells for $16.

Vir Biotechnology (VIR -1.86%) has had a similar rocket ride. The company had a broken IPO last year and it's up 282% in 2020.

But the biggest winner has been tiny Co-Diagnostics (CODX). The Utah diagnostic company started the year as a micro cap. Its stock has had an amazing run in 2020, up 1,353% in two months.

dollar arrow going up

Image source: Getty Images.

How are the large caps doing?

There are probably a dozen healthcare companies that are working on a vaccine or cure for the coronavirus. These include mega-cap names like SanofiJohnson & Johnson, and GlaxoSmithKline, as well as larger biotechs like ModernaGilead Sciences, and Regeneron. Yet the market has been rewarding these names only slightly, and in some cases, not at all.

Stock Price on January 2 Price on February 28 Percentage Return
Johnson & Johnson $145.87 $134.48 (7.9%)
Sanofi $50.58 $46.25 (8.7%)
GlaxoSmithKline $46.81 $40.53 (13.6%)
Gilead Sciences $65.53 $69.36 6.3%
Regeneron $378 $444.57 19.08%
Moderna $19.57 $25.93 34.84%
Vir Biotechnology $12.56 $46.50 282%
Novavax $3.99 $16 300%
Co-Diagnostics $0.90 $13.23 1,353%

Chart by author.

The small-cap names have done much, much better than the mega caps. For investors looking for a safe haven in the coronavirus meltdown, smaller is probably better.