The coronavirus outbreak is causing many people to stay at home. And it's causing many investors to stay away from the stock market. But there are still some stocks that are performing well in the midst of the market mayhem resulting from the viral epidemic.
Three biotech stocks that appear to be coronavirus safe havens are Exelixis (EXEL 0.43%), Gilead Sciences (GILD -0.76%), and Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX 0.25%). Here's why these stocks have been able to swim against the current and are still smart picks for investors to buy now.
The best way to overcome bad news in the market is to deliver good news of your own. That's exactly what Exelixis has done in recent weeks.
On Feb. 11, Exelixis announced positive results from a phase 1b clinical study evaluating Cabometyx and Roche's Tecentriq in treating metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. The biotech followed up a few weeks later with solid Q4 results fueled by continued success for Cabometyx.
Regardless of how many people are infected with the coronavirus disease COVID-19, Exelixis should continue its momentum. Cancer patients will need the biotech's drugs at least as much in the future as they do now -- and probably even more.
There's a realistic chance that Exelixis can pick up as many as four additional indications for Cabometyx by the end of 2021. The company also plans to bolster its pipeline through business development deals.
2. Gilead Sciences
Gilead Sciences is one of a handful of biotech stocks that have actually benefited from the coronavirus threat. The company's experimental antiviral drug remdesivir is viewed as a leading candidate for treating COVID-19. But Gilead's coronavirus program isn't the main reason to like the stock.
The company dominates the global HIV market. Gilead's Biktarvy is the most powerful HIV drug to reach the market yet and raked in $4.7 billion last year. An even bigger winner could be on the way. Gilead is evaluating long-acting capsid inhibitor GS-6207 in early stage clinical studies. RBC Capital Markets analyst Brian Abrahams thinks the HIV drug could be a transformative catalyst for Gilead in the future.
In the meantime, Gilead should have another major catalyst coming up. The biotech hopes to win regulatory approval for filgotinib in treating rheumatoid arthritis later this year. Gilead is also evaluating the drug in clinical studies targeting other indications, including Crohn's disease, psoriatic arthritis, and ulcerative colitis. Analysts project that filgotinib could generate peak annual sales of as much as $6 billion.
Gilead is also a leader in cancer cell therapy with Yescarta. The company is expanding its oncology presence as well with plans to acquire cancer-focused biotech Forty Seven for $4.9 billion.
On top of all of this, Gilead offers a mouth-watering dividend that currently yields 3.9%. Gilead has increased its dividend payout by 58% since 2015.
3. Vertex Pharmaceuticals
Vertex canceled its presentation at the Cowen Health Care Conference scheduled for March 3 due to its companywide restriction on travel due to the coronavirus threat. Aside from this cancellation, though, the biotech has rocked along unphased by the epidemic.
Like the other biotechs on our list, Vertex doesn't have to worry about any impact from the current coronavirus outbreak on the sales of its products. Vertex claims the only approved drugs on the market for treating the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis (CF).
The company's position in the CF market is getting even stronger. Vertex recently won FDA approval for its triple-drug combo Trikafta and hopes to secure European approval for the drug this year. Trikafta holds the opportunity to expand the addressable patient population for Vertex's CF drugs by more than 50%.
Vertex is also moving beyond CF. It's working with CRISPR Therapeutics to develop gene-editing therapies for rare blood disorders beta-thalassemia and sickle cell disease. The company is evaluating several other drugs in early stage clinical studies targeting other rare genetic diseases. And Vertex is really swinging for the fence by attempting to develop a potential cure for type 1 diabetes.
How safe are these coronavirus safe havens?
All biotech stocks face risks. Exelixis, Gilead, and Vertex could fail to win key regulatory approvals. Any of the companies could experience pipeline setbacks. But while many businesses could be negatively impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, you can rest assured that patients will keep on taking the products made by Exelixis, Gilead, and Vertex and physicians will keep on prescribing them.