When most of us think of coronavirus stocks, we think of vaccine makers or drug treatment companies. A heart-pump specialist doesn't first come to mind. That's why this company wasn't among the most talked about as the coronavirus treatment race heated up.
So, who is this under-the-radar player? It's Abiomed (ABMD 0.06%), the manufacturer of popular circulatory support devices. This summer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted the company two emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for the use of its heart pumps in coronavirus patients. Abiomed is the only company to receive an EUA for a therapeutic cardiovascular device for COVID-19, a virus that can cause widespread inflammation resulting in damage to the lungs and heart. Let's dig deeper into Abiomed and understand why it might just be the safest coronavirus stock to buy right now.
A focus on heart recovery
Back in the early 2000s, Abiomed made headlines when it treated its first patient with AbioCor, the first totally implantable artificial heart. The company switched its focus a few years later to heart recovery, and introduced the Impella heart pump system -- the world's smallest heart pump. The FDA cleared the first product in the Impella series in 2008.
Over the years, the FDA has approved Impella pumps for various uses including elective and urgent heart procedures such as stents, balloon angioplasty, and open-heart surgery. Impella helps the heart to rest by facilitating blood flow or taking over the actual pumping of the heart.
The strategic switch to a focus on heart recovery has been beneficial for Abiomed and its shareholders. Since the first FDA clearance of the Impella, annual revenue has been on the rise -- and earnings have followed. Abiomed's share price didn't take off immediately, but for investors who held on, the ride was worthwhile. Abiomed's shares are up 1,640% since the start of 2008.
Now, the FDA has expanded use of the Impella to coronavirus patients. In June, the regulatory agency offered an EUA for the Impella RP model for use in coronavirus-related right heart failure or decompensation, including pulmonary embolism (PE). A PE is a dangerous blockage of a pulmonary artery in the lungs.
Helping patients on life support
In August, the FDA awarded an EUA to Impella heart pumps that perform left ventricular unloading. This involves aspirating blood from the left ventricle and depositing it into the aorta. The result is less pressure in the left ventricle of the heart. This is meant to help patients on a life support system who suffer from pulmonary edema (buildup of fluid in the lungs) or myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle). Myocarditis may have played a role in 33% of 68 coronavirus deaths in one study, according to a report published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
In spite of its role in coronavirus treatment, Abiomed hasn't avoided the near-term fate of most medical device companies. Like its peers, Abiomed saw procedures postponed as hospitals turned their attention to the coronavirus crisis. As a result, Impella revenue fell 22% year over year in the most recent quarter.
But that wouldn't stop me from buying shares of Abiomed today. Abiomed is likely to gain from Impella device's role in COVID-19 treatment and its other indications in the long run. Respiratory and cardiovascular issues are among the most dangerous complications of COVID-19, and technologies addressing these areas are likely to be sought after as long as severe cases of the illness exist.
A safe coronavirus investment
Abiomed is among the safest coronavirus investments because it doesn't rely on a coronavirus product alone. Sales via Impella's other indications also are likely to climb. The global heart pump device market is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.8% and reach more than $5 billion in value by 2025, according to a report by Brand Essence Market Research. This is due to an aging population and an increase in cardiovascular disease around the world.
Though it's unclear how long the coronavirus health crisis will last, the situation has been improving: Many businesses have reopened, and previously postponed medical procedures are back on the agenda at many hospitals. Abiomed said that it's started to see protected PCI procedures -- a stent procedure that involves the Impella system-- resume in most locations.
Meanwhile, Abiomed has no debt, holds about $600 million in cash, and boasts a portfolio of 884 patents. The shares have recovered 83% from their March low, proof of the business' resilience. Considering the company's earnings track record and the Impella system's future potential, Abiomed makes a solid and safe coronavirus-related addition to long-term investors' portfolios.