What happened

Shares of Altimmune (ALT 1.34%) were jumping 12.2% higher as of 10:58 a.m. EDT on Friday. The big gain came after B. Riley FBR analyst Chad Mabry initiated coverage on the stock with a buy recommendation.

So what

It's important to keep in mind that analysts' buy recommendations change nothing about the underlying prospects for a company. They simply mean that a given analyst is recognizing those prospects. And the analyst's view could be completely on target or dead wrong.

One hand with a thumb up and the other hand holding cash fanned out

Image source: Getty Images.

With biotech stocks such as Altimmune, evaluating whether or not analysts are more likely to be right or not is difficult. Altimmune doesn't have any products on the market yet. The company's lead pipeline candidate, intranasal flu vaccine Nasovax, is only in phase 2 testing. There isn't a lot of clinical data to go on to assess the biotech's chances of success at this point.

However, there are some reasons to be cautiously optimistic about Altimmune's prospects. The company's pipeline includes four clinical-stage programs with two other early-stage studies planned to begin later this year. Results from preclinical and clinical testing conducted so far for these candidates have been encouraging.

Altimmune also lined up federal funding for its anthrax intranasal vaccine and T-COVID intranasal coronavirus vaccine programs. This external funding is a positive sign about the potential for these vaccines.

Now what

The main thing for investors to watch with Altimmune is its pipeline progress. Altimmune plans to initiate a phase 1 study of its AdCOVID coronavirus vaccine in the fourth quarter of 2020. It expects to begin a multinational phase 2 trial evaluating HepTcell in treating chronic hepatitis B before year-end. In addition, the biotech anticipates reporting results from a phase 1 study of ALT-801 in treating nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) next spring.