Two coronavirus vaccines, one from Moderna (MRNA -0.92%) and one from Pfizer (PFE 2.73%) and BioNTech (BNTX 0.70%), have already gained authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. There are plenty of additional companies with vaccines looking to capture some of the market share.
In this video from Motley Fool Live recorded on Jan. 4, Corinne Cardina Jurney, bureau chief of healthcare and cannabis, and Fool.com contributor Brian Orelli discuss the companies in late-stage development.
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Corinne Cardina Jurney: Brian, let's start with the coronavirus. So, clearly, that was the biggest theme in 2020. I don't think it's going away anytime soon in 2021. Of course, in the U.S., we have two vaccines authorized and being administered, one from Moderna as well as one from Pfizer and BioNTech. Let's talk about the companies that are on that last mile of the vaccine development race. What upcoming catalysts should investors be watching to see which other vaccines are going to cross that finish line?
Brian Orelli: I think Johnson & Johnson (JNJ 0.45%) is probably one of the big ones. They're not going to profit during the pandemic. So if you're buying Johnson & Johnson just specifically for the coronavirus vaccine, you're going to have to look beyond the pandemic. It's a one-dose vaccine, although they are testing two doses as well, just to confirm that one dose is just as good as two doses. They have phase 3 data that should be coming up toward the end of this month, they said before the end of January. With increased infections, that should accelerate the data readout because of course, you just need a certain number of infections, so assuming most of them are in the placebo group, the higher the infection rate, the quicker you should see those placebo people get COVID-19. Then they're looking for an FDA authorization by the end of February, or maybe early March.
AstraZeneca (AZN 2.31%) also won't profit from the pandemic. Both Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca are using the cold virus to deliver the DNA that expresses part of the coronavirus, and so it doesn't require ultra-cold storage like the mRNA vaccines do. AstraZeneca has really weird data readouts. Came out initially with data that's full dose, followed by half-dose worked better. And then they have also shown data, that maybe longer time between the initial dose and the booster, might help increase at least the creation of antibodies. They sort of make sense, but I feel like they need to run another trial just to figure out exactly what the case is. But we're in a pandemic, so it's hard to tell. They gained U.K. authorization over the last couple of weeks. In normal times, I'd say that was crazy. Investors want predictable regulators and you need to know what's required, and clearly this data set wouldn't cut it in normal times. But we are not in normal times. It's clear the vaccine is working, and we don't have enough vaccine to cover everybody. I don't see it's that bad to approve it in the U.K., although we may not be optimizing the dose regimen in the U.K.
Novavax (NVAX 8.35%) is another one. They should get phase 3 data from a study in the U.K. shortly. The U.S. trial just started last month. It may be hard for them to enroll the study, especially older people who are now currently eligible for the mRNA vaccines, because why would you enter a clinical trial where you might get placebo if you can have a 100% chance of getting vaccine that works 95% of the time for the mRNA vaccines. They did do a smart move by doing a 2:1 ratio, so for every one person that is getting placebo, there are two people that are getting vaccine, but you still have one in three chance of getting placebo. Then long term, they're exploring the possibility of combining COVID-19 vaccine with the flu vaccine, which has already been shown to work. I think if we get into the next winter season, then I think that's a legitimate play there.