What happened

Stocks entered a bear market in March, but shares of Biogen (NASDAQ:BIIB) moved higher, rising 2.59% during the month, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Biogen gained as investors sought out shares of companies perceived as safe havens during the coronavirus outbreak.

The biotechnology giant last month said it didn't expect manufacturing or supply interruptions and didn't announce any immediate impact on its financial outlook. The company said the timeline of some clinical trials might be altered due to the situation, but so far, trials already underway are continuing as planned.

Three researchers work in a lab.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

With worldwide cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, now totaling more than 850,600, activity in most sectors has slowed. Though drugmakers are somewhat spared due to the fact they produce essential products, disruptions in manufacturing represent a risk. And some pharmaceutical and biotech companies have announced temporary suspensions in clinical trial enrollment as hospitals devote resources to COVID-19 patients. That could slow time to market for drugs in those trials.

Biogen has the advantage of having 13 drugs on the market, including partnered therapies, as well as more than two dozen drug candidates in the pipeline. With indications like multiple sclerosis and spinal muscular atrophy, Biogen's drugs are necessities. And the number of drugs in the pipeline limits the impact of any potential slowdown in certain clinical trials.

Now what

In Biogen's March statement, the company said it can't rule out future impact to the business as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds. Biotech investors should continue to follow Biogen's comments on the subject, especially if the outbreak deepens. That said, even if Biogen eventually announces impact on manufacturing, clinical trials, or sales, the problems should be temporary. The next big catalyst for Biogen might be any news on aducanumab, its investigational treatment for Alzheimer's disease. During its last earnings report, the company said it plans to submit the drug to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for review "as soon as possible."