What happened

Shares of several companies with coronavirus programs were crushing it on Tuesday. Novavax (NVAX 1.85%) stock was skyrocketing 46.1% higher as of 11:36 a.m. EDT. Shares of Co-Diagnostics (CODX -2.59%) were jumping by 29.3%. Inovio Pharmaceuticals (INO 2.83%) and MannKind (NASDAQ: MNKD) stocks were up 22.8% and 17.2%, respectively.

Only two of these companies reported new developments. Co-Diagnostics announced on Tuesday that a new policy the Food and Drug Administration released Monday evening will enable the company to "aggressively expand its presence in the U.S. market." This FDA policy will further ease regulations to boost the numbers of COVID-19 tests that are available. MannKind announced that it's partnering with Immix Biopharma to develop a therapy for treating acute respiratory distress syndrome, which is a complication of COVID-19.

Although Novavax and Inovio didn't have announcements, the two biotech stocks benefited from the overall stock market bounce on Tuesday following yet another major sell-off yesterday. Both companies are among the leaders in developing experimental vaccines for the novel coronavirus.

Gloved hand stopping domino-like wood blocks spelling COVID-19 from toppling over other wood blocks

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

A rising tide lifts all boats. And the boats that aren't leaking as much as others rise even higher. That's basically what we're seeing with the big gains for several of these stocks.

The news today for Co-Diagnostics was probably the most important. Any move by the FDA to remove barriers to marketing COVID-19 diagnostics tests should directly translate to increased sales for the company. Co-Diagnostics reported surging demand for its COVID-19 tests earlier this month.

MannKind's efforts to develop a dry powder drug that could treat a COVID-19 complication seems like a smart strategy. However, there's a long way to go for the small drugmaker.

Inovio and Novavax are scrambling to begin clinical testing of their experimental COVID-19 vaccines. Inovio appears to have a slight lead, with plans to start a phase 1 study in April. Novavax expects to initiate a phase 1 study of its COVID-19 vaccine in either May or June.

Now what

The smartest approach for investors is to evaluate each of these stocks on their individual merits. None of the companies are profitable yet, so their cash positions are very important. Each company's opportunities outside of their coronavirus programs are also key. 

It's likely that all four of these stocks will be highly volatile for a while to come. And it's quite possible that the same stocks that are crushing it today could be crashing tomorrow.