Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT), Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA), and Novavax (NASDAQ:NVAX) have each grown amid the new coronavirus market in different ways. Abbott's coronavirus testing business could make it the world's top COVID-19 diagnostic provider, and Moderna may be on track to become the biotech industry's first "software" therapeutics company while working on its potential coronavirus vaccine. And while its coronavirus vaccine candidate may not be the first to reach the market, Novavax could soon become the manufacturer of the most effective flu vaccine in the world.

Each of these companies has the potential to continue expanding. In the case of Moderna and Novavax, this future growth may be tremendous, whereas Abbott's will probably be more moderate. Let's investigate each stock to determine why they're growing and if they might be the right choice for your portfolio.

Three vials labeled "COVID-19" vaccine.

Image source: Getty Images.

Abbott's coronavirus tests will be in demand for the foreseeable future

Abbott has handily beaten the market this year thanks to its ongoing efforts to innovate in the coronavirus diagnostic space. Between its profitable operations and its ever-expanding selection of rapid and multiplexed diagnostic tests, Abbott has grown its quarterly earnings by 28.3% year over year. In late August, the company released a rapid diagnostic test that costs $5, takes 15 minutes to return results, and doesn't need any advanced laboratory hardware. The company is also one of the first to integrate a passport-like digital app with its diagnostic tests, allowing consumers to share their test results with third parties.

Abbott has already sold more than 100 million coronavirus diagnostics, accounting for around $881 million in sales in the second quarter alone. It predicts that this demand will continue to grow for at least another year. In the meantime, Abbott is continuing to iterate on its tests to ensure that it can become a dominant player in the testing market even after the most difficult period of the pandemic is over. If Abbott can expand its app-based tracking of test results while continuing to offer progressively cheaper, faster, and lower-friction diagnostics, it's hard to see how it the $201 billion market cap company could fail.

Can Moderna leverage its coronavirus vaccine into a monster stock?

Unlike Abbott, Moderna is focused on developing vaccines and therapeutics. Moderna's leading program is its coronavirus vaccine, which is in its final phase of clinical trials. It's also widely considered to be one of the leading vaccine candidates -- and it could be immensely profitable. Still, Moderna's promising coronavirus work is only part of the company's vision.

Moderna views its messenger RNA (mRNA) technology platform as having a lot in common with the operating system of a computer. With Moderna's technology, the company hopes to produce different medicines with the ease of coding software programs. The mRNA medicines themselves are the "software," which include a temporary set of instructions for the body's cells to make a certain protein. This software is then "run" on the hardware of the human body to get the desired effect.

If Moderna's vision can be realized, the company will dramatically reduce its research and development (R&D) costs, especially in the preclinical phase. Of course, it's highly likely that Moderna's pitch for its technology platform has been overly simplified. And it's difficult to believe that producing medicines could ever be truly easy in the way that Moderna implies. But if Moderna's coronavirus vaccine is commercialized, it would validate the company's approach -- and score the biotech some profits. The coronavirus vaccine could become a source of recurring revenue for many years -- depending on the behavior of the virus, how it mutates, and where hotspots emerge -- which would help Moderna grow over the long term.

Novavax prepares to enter the flu vaccine market

Novavax's coronavirus vaccine led the stock to grow by over 2,000% this year. But investors should probably be more interested in its influenza vaccine candidate, which recently concluded its final phase of clinical trials. The vaccine candidate, called NanoFlu, is intended to prevent seasonal influenza in adults over 65 years old, and it's on the verge of commercialization. The drug candidate is awaiting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in its Accelerated Approval Program.

In a head-to-head comparison, NanoFlu was shown to be more effective than Fluzone, a leading influenza vaccine marketed by Sanofi. This means that NanoFlu will probably be able to find a share of the crowded influenza vaccine market, which is great news for Novavax as well as its investors. Even if the coronavirus is getting more of the public's attention at the moment, it's important to remember that influenza is an annual challenge around the world, and preventing the illness is a lucrative business. The market for influenza vaccine is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.7% until 2026, when it will reach a valuation of $7.74 billion, according to Fortune Business Insights.

If and when NanoFlu brings in regular revenue, Novavax can work to expand its pipeline and develop its other early stage programs, which include treatments for respiratory syntactical virus (RSV), Ebola, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). If its coronavirus vaccine also gets approved sometime next year, the company could really explode in value, securing Novavax's ability to work on its long-term agenda in the process.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.