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Here Are the Early-Stage COVID Vaccine Stocks to Watch in 2021

By Brian Orelli, PhD - Jan 17, 2021 at 9:40AM

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Don't forget about the latecomers.

Multiple biotechs have coronavirus vaccines with regulatory authorizations, and others are about to cross the finish line. But investors should still keep an eye on the early-stage companies, such as Inovio (INO -4.57%) and Vaxart (VXRT 5.68%). In this video from Motley Fool Live, recorded on Jan. 4, Corinne Cardina, bureau chief of healthcare and cannabis, and contributor Brian Orelli discuss the potential benefits of the 2021 latecomers.

Corinne Cardina: Looking a little sooner in the race, are there any coronavirus vaccine developers that are a little bit further behind that investors should be watching, and could have upcoming catalysts?

Brian Orelli: Yeah. There's a couple of phase 1 and phase 2 companies. Inovio has a DNA-based vaccine. Instead of using a virus, you get the DNA in, like AstraZeneca (AZN 2.59%) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ 1.75%) are doing. They are using a machine that injects the DNA straight from the machine on the outside of your body, through your skin, into your cells.

They have a phase 2 clinical trial that started in December. It's supposed to be enrolled shortly, and then they will go out 28 days till the second shot, and then, a few more weeks before they can generate data for the antibody data. Maybe in March sometime, we might see data from that phase 2. It is actually a phase 2/3 clinical trial, so they should be able to transition fairly quickly into a phase 3 portion. Although obviously, they'll have to ramp up, and then they'll still have issues with enrollment, competing with patients who would just want to get the authorized vaccines.

Then Vaxart, it's way behind, it's still in phase 1 with data expected soon. But it's an oral tablet, and that would obviously be a huge benefit both for storage, especially as we go into rural areas -- and then of course people don't like needles, especially kids, so that would be helpful. It might be too late. But at a market cap under $600 million (as it looked last night), there's probably not much in future sales priced in Moderna's at $41 billion, so you can see the upside if they were able to get even a moderate amount of the market share. And then BioNTech is at almost 20 billion, so that's still almost 30x or something. Even if it is too late, just proving that their platform works and they can make oral vaccines should increase the valuation, because there's opportunities in other vaccines that they could make down the road.

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Stocks Mentioned

Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Stock Quote
Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
$1.88 (-4.57%) $0.09
Johnson & Johnson Stock Quote
Johnson & Johnson
$176.98 (1.75%) $3.04
AstraZeneca PLC Stock Quote
AstraZeneca PLC
$66.21 (2.59%) $1.67
Vaxart, Inc. Stock Quote
Vaxart, Inc.
$3.72 (5.68%) $0.20

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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