What happened

Shares of several biotech stocks were sinking on Thursday due to a major market sell-off related to increased worries about the impact of the coronavirus disease COVID-19. AnaptysBio (ANAB -2.49%) stock was down 8.2% as of 11:38 a.m. EDT after falling as much as 16.4% earlier in the day. Shares of bluebird bio (BLUE -4.00%) were down 11.4%. Editas Medicine (EDIT 24.94%) stock was down 11.2%.

So what

COVID-19 has been like a quicksand that's sucking down nearly every stock in sight. The main difference is that quicksand really only sucks down objects in movies and not in real life, while COVID-19 really is causing stocks to plunge.

Hand sticking out of sand

Image source: Getty Images.

But what are the real-life effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the business prospects for AnaptysBio, Bluebird, and Editas? Practically nil.

Neither AnaptysBio nor Editas have any products on the market yet. Even a pandemic can't hurt sales that don't exist. Bluebird has one product that's approved in Europe, transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia drug Zynteglo. Physicians are just as likely to prescribe the drug for patients with the rare blood disease now as they were last week or the week before.

Now what

Expect all three biotech stocks to be highly volatile for a while even though COVID-19 really doesn't affect their businesses. Long-term investors, though, should watch key milestones for the companies instead of the wild share price swings.

AnaptysBio expects to announce results from three phase 2 clinical studies this year. Editas is moving forward with evaluating gene-editing therapy EDIT-101 in a phase 1/2 study targeting rare genetic eye disease Leber congenital amaurosis 10 (LCA 10). Bluebird plans to launch Zynteglo in other European countries in 2020 and has several regulatory filings on the way for key drugs including Lenti-D and ide-cel.