Wall Street was in a good mood again on Tuesday, sending major stock indexes upward yet again. Amid hopes that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic might be over, investors continued to build on the impressive recovery that stocks have posted since the bear market plunge in late February and March. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI), S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^SPX), and Nasdaq Composite were all up less than 1% on the day.

Today's stock market

Index

Percentage Change

Point Change

Dow

0.50%

131

S&P 500

0.43%

13

Nasdaq Composite

0.74%

75

Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

As much as measures like lockdowns, masks, and social distancing have helped reduce the spread of COVID-19, many health experts believe that the only real answer to the pandemic's economic impacts is to develop a vaccine for the disease. There are a host of companies trying to do exactly that, and today, Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO) and Translate Bio (NASDAQ:TBIO) were major beneficiaries of optimism about the prospects for finding a COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible.

$100 bill with Franklin wearing a face mask.

Image source: Getty Images.

Inovio gets a DoD contract

Inovio stock finished higher by more than 40% on Tuesday. The small biotech company got good news from the federal government as it moves forward with its efforts to develop the equipment and infrastructure resources necessary to distribute its vaccine candidate to patients if it's approved.

Inovio has received $71 million from the Department of Defense, according to the company's press release today. The company will use the money to boost manufacturing of its Cellectra equipment line. The two Cellectra devices are designed to deliver the INO-4800 vaccine directly into a patient's skin without the use of needles.

Of course, building out the Cellectra product line won't have a huge impact on Inovio unless its vaccine proves effective, and the company plans to offer a report on its phase 1 clinical trial later this month. If that goes well, then Inovio hopes to start a phase 2/3 study this summer, with the end goal to prove the efficacy of the DNA vaccine quickly. There's still room for problems to arise, but investors seem confident that INO-4800 will pan out and that Inovio could be first to bring a COVID-19 vaccine to market.

Translate Bio gets a multibillion-dollar deal

Translate Bio's stock picked up even more ground, rising 47%. The company already had a partnership with drug giant Sanofi (NASDAQ:SNY) to work on developing mRNA vaccines for infectious diseases, and today, Sanofi agreed to make a huge financial contribution toward the two companies' joint goal of producing a COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

Sanofi and Translate have worked together for a couple of years now, but it was just in March that they turned their attention to the coronavirus. Now, Sanofi wants to lock in the fruits of their collaboration, and that means a big payday for Translate.

The deal involves Sanofi paying Translate $425 million for exclusive rights to their COVID-19 vaccine candidates, as well as potential vaccines for other infectious diseases. In addition to that upfront cash, Translate will be able to earn royalty payments based on the sales of any successful candidates. All told, that could bring $1.9 billion into Translate's pockets. For a company with a market cap of just $1.5 billion even after today's rise, that's a big deal.

Biotech stocks  have been popular lately, especially those that have their fingers in the production of coronavirus-related products. For Translate and Inovio, today's gains could be just the beginning if the companies make further progress toward solving one of the world's most pressing problems right now.