What happened

Several coronavirus vaccine stocks have slumped as of 11:20 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, dragged down by the broader market sell-off. Shares of Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) were 5% lower. Novavax (NASDAQ:NVAX) and Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO) were down 6.1% and 4.5%, respectively.

So what

You might think that biotech stocks like Moderna, Novavax, and Inovio would rise instead of fall with concerns mounting about the increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases. However, it's tough for any stock to perform well when all of the major market indexes drop significantly.

Coronavirus vaccine bottles, one with a dollar sign in it and another toppled over, and a syringe

Image source: Getty Images.

Still, the fortunes of all three companies could improve as a direct result of the latest surge in the COVID-19 outbreak. A worsening crisis could spur more people to want to receive a coronavirus vaccine once vaccines become available. This would lead to greater demand for the COVID-19 vaccines that win regulatory approvals or Emergency Use Authorization.

Moderna appears to be in the best position of these three to benefit. The company's mRNA-1273 coronavirus vaccine candidate is currently in late-stage testing. Moderna has already started rolling regulatory submissions in some countries and hopes to file for Emergency Use Authorization in the U.S. by late November.

Novavax shouldn't be too far behind Moderna. The biotech provided an update on Tuesday about its coronavirus vaccine program. Novavax expects to complete enrollment in a U.K. late-stage study of NVX-Cov2373 and begin late-stage studies of the experimental vaccine in the U.S. and Mexico by the end of next month.

Inovio's future is murkier. The company had initially hoped to start a late-stage study of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate INO-4800 in September. However, the FDA put those plans on hold until it received more data from Inovio. The company has stated that it intended to respond to the FDA's questions in October. Assuming it meets that goal this week, the FDA should make its decision on the next steps for the late-stage study of INO-4800 by late November.

Now what

Investors now have to wait and see what happens with each of these biotechs' coronavirus vaccine programs. All three could have key catalysts on the way over the next few weeks.