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3 Takeaways for Investors in mRNA Vaccine Stocks

By Brian Orelli, PhD - Jan 4, 2021 at 10:15AM

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Vaccine side effects, mutations in the virus, and company pipelines are some of the things investors should be watching.

Pfizer ( PFE 1.90% ) and BioNTech's ( BNTX 1.82% ) as well as Moderna's ( MRNA 1.52% ) coronavirus vaccines work in the same way, using a messenger RNA (mRNA) to express part of the virus. In this video from Motley Fool Live, recorded on Dec. 21, Corinne Cardina, bureau chief of healthcare and cannabis, and Fool.com contributor Brian Orelli, discuss what investors should be prepared for now that the vaccines have gained emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Corrine Cardina: So now that we do have two mRNA vaccines authorized by the FDA for emergency use, what would you say are three takeaways for investors?

Brian Orelli: First I'd say, don't freak out about side effects. I mean, somebody is going to have a heart attack almost immediately after getting the vaccine. They were going to have heart attack if it hadn't gotten the vaccine either. We're going to get reports of random things happening. But it doesn't mean causation. There was a 72-year-old participant in Moderna's clinical trial that was struck by lightning. Obviously [laughs] its a rare event. We only know about it because it was listed as one of the side effects or adverse events because they have an arrhythmia. Heart beating irregularly after they got struck by lightning. That's how we know they got struck by lightning. But obviously that's a rare event and obviously the vaccines did not cause the patient or the participant to be struck by lightning.

The second thing I'd say is only some mutations matter. The coronavirus is a RNA virus that has a lower accuracy of copying then compared to DNA to DNA copying like ourselves do and that leads to mutations in the virus that creates new variance or new strains. Those mutations can make it either better or worse for the virus, if its worst then it will be selected against, and if it's better, they may be selected for. There's a strain in the UK that's going around that appears to be more transmissible. They estimate it might be as much as 70% more transmissible than the base stream. But that doesn't mean that it's more deadly, right? The previous coronavirus outbreak, SARS and MERS, were the exact opposite. They were more deadly but less contagious and that's how we were able to get a hold of them unlike this one. Ultimately, the thing that matters is mutations in the spike protein in terms of the vaccine, the mRNA codes for the spike protein at the end of the virus and what it uses to infect cells. It seems to be pretty highly conserved mutations in there might make it so that it can't infect the cells. Those mutations in the spike protein are likely to be deleterious to the virus and so they are less likely to escape the vaccine.

Then my third point for investors would be just focus on the rest of the companies' pipelines. The coronavirus vaccines is going to create a bolus of cash and that's great, especially for Moderna and BioNTech. They're smaller. It's less important for Pfizer because they have quite a bit more revenue. Also we don't quite know what the breakdown of the profits are between Pfizer and BioNTech. But I mean ultimately it's a same story on valuation. The valuation is ultimately going to be based on the portfolio of drugs on the market and those upcoming and the vaccine may or may not actually go away. But the rest of the pipeline is equally important.

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.

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Stocks Mentioned

Moderna, Inc. Stock Quote
Moderna, Inc.
MRNA
$306.06 (1.52%) $4.57
Pfizer Inc. Stock Quote
Pfizer Inc.
PFE
$54.05 (1.90%) $1.00
BioNTech SE Stock Quote
BioNTech SE
BNTX
$339.56 (1.82%) $6.07

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