Fool.com's Healthcare and Cannabis Bureau Chief Corinne Cardina interviewed Richard Horton on Motley Fool Live on Oct. 9. Horton runs the British medical journal The Lancet and has been at the forefront of publishing data about the coronavirus pandemic this year. He also recently published a book called The COVID-19 Catastrophe.
Here, Horton explains how investors should decide whether to buy stocks of companies developing coronavirus vaccine candidates, including Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech (NASDAQ:BNTX), and Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA).
Cardina: We're Fool.com, so we are a lot of investors. A lot of people are considering investing in one or many companies that are working on a COVID-19 vaccine. What would you say to people who are putting their money behind one or more of these companies?
Horton: Well, that's probably above my pay grade.
Cardina: I know I'm asking a scientist about investing. I'm sorry.
Horton: I'm a scientist for a reason, which means that I'm not very good on investment. Listen, the thing to do is you've got to be able to trust the subject experts who are running that start-up. You've got to be sure that they really understand the science. If you get the sense that these people really do get the virology, the study of the virus, they understand the molecular biology of the disease, that's the test for me. Well, I'll give you an example. When we have the Russian vaccine paper submitted to us, I don't know Russia very well. I haven't visited Russia as much as I have visited China. But I needed to be sure, I need to be able to trust that that paper was an accurate and reliable description of what they've done. So I needed to be sure about the scientists. If I could begin to trust them, if I could trust that they were doing serious work, good work of an international recognized standard, then I felt that it was safe and worthwhile publishing that paper. As we went through the peer-review process, as we began to build up confidence in what they were doing, then I felt that we had sufficient information. So make sure they're good scientists, get their work peer-reviewed by other experts in the field, consult widely, and then I think maybe that would be the basis for an investment decision.
Cardina: Yeah. To be cliche, bet on the jockey, not the horse. Make sure you know the jockey knows that they're talking about.
Horton: Absolutely, absolutely.