Companies attempting to develop effective coronavirus vaccines have taken center stage on Wall Street in 2020. Pfizer, Novavax, Vaxart, and others have all seen their share prices scream higher because of their COVID-19 programs.
The core reason is that the federal government's Operation Warp Speed has plowed approximately $11 billion into the development of vaccine candidates on accelerated timelines. The cold, hard truth, though, is that a vaccine alone will not be a panacea for this particular virus.
The reason is that the vast majority of vaccines do not confer adequate levels of immunity in a number of patient populations, among them the elderly and the immunocompromised. That fact means that even if strong vaccines do hit the market, new, more effective coronavirus treatments -- especially for severely ill patients -- will still be required.
Eli Lilly: A potential blockbuster
Eli Lilly has been one of the best-performing big pharma stocks over the past few years thanks to its innovative approach toward business development. Briefly, it has expanded far beyond its core diabetes franchise to become a top player in the fields of oncology, neurology, and immunology. As a direct result, it has consistently posted top-notch earnings and revenue growth since the start of 2017.
Now, the drugmaker is hoping to extend its winning streak by being among the first to develop a potent monoclonal antibody -- known as LY-CoV555 -- as a preventative COVID-19 treatment for elderly patients. Eli Lilly partnered with AbCellera to develop the antibody, and last month, it launched a phase 3 trial to evaluate its ability to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infections in residents and staff at nursing homes. The initial results could be available for public consumption as soon as March, according to clinicaltrials.gov.
Although Eli Lilly is facing considerable competition in this indication from the likes of AstraZeneca and Regeneron, Wall Street thinks the COVID-19 antibody market might be worth as much as $10 billion per year at its peak. Though the company surely won't have a monopoly in that lucrative market, there is a decent chance that LY-CoV555 could exceed $1 billion in annual sales in 2022.
Kamada: A convalescent plasma therapy play
Kamada is a plasma-centered biopharmaceutical company with two FDA-approved products on the market: Glassia, a treatment for the inherited lung/liver disorder known as alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency; and Kamrab, a preventative treatment for rabies.
Although neither of its commercial-stage products is a major cash cow, relatively speaking, Kamada has been posting respectable levels of revenue growth, positive free cash flow, and a steadily improving cash position over the past few quarters.
The biotech's main draw for investors, though, arguably isn't its current product line-up, but rather its experimental convalescent plasma therapy for COVID-19. On Aug. 23, President Trump announced that the FDA had issued an emergency use authorization for this intriguing treatment to be administered to hospitalized COVID-19 treatments.
Since then, the scientific community has raised concerns about the effectiveness of convalescent plasma therapy, given the lack of placebo-controlled clinical trials for them. But this skepticism probably won't dim the commercial potential for Kamada's therapy -- at least not in the short term.
The big picture is that this biotech has one of the most advanced plasma-based COVID-19 treatments in development, a fact which might translate into a healthy boost in its sales in the not-so-distant future.