Vir Biotechnology (VIR -0.62%) may be weeks away from commercializing its very first product. The clinical-stage biotech company and partner GlaxoSmithKline late last month requested Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for their investigational COVID-19 treatment.
In more good news, GlaxoSmithKline recently expanded its collaboration with Vir to include the development of potential treatments for respiratory viruses including influenza. And earlier in the year, Vir teamed up with Gilead Sciences to test their investigational chronic hepatitis B (HBV) treatments as a combination therapy. Vir shares are up 71% year to date. But they're down about 44% from a high reached in January. Now, you may be wondering how far they can go from here -- and whether they can make you a millionaire. Let's find out...
Antibody treatment for COVID
First, a little background. Vir has eight potential products in the pipeline for indications including COVID-19, HBV, Influenza A, and HIV. The closest to market is the antibody treatment for coronavirus patients. The next in line are two HBV candidates, in phase 2 studies.
Let's take a look at the nearest possibility for product revenue. Vir and GlaxoSmithKline were testing their monoclonal antibody candidate in a phase 3 trial when an independent monitoring committee recommended halting enrollment. The reason? The committee cited the investigational product's "profound efficacy."
Treatment with the monoclonal antibody resulted in an 85% decrease in hospitalization or death. The companies are seeking an EUA for use in individuals ages 12 and older with mild-to-moderate COVID-19. This applies to people who are at risk of hospitalization or death.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year authorized Regeneron Pharmaceuticals' (REGN -0.33%) antibody cocktail for the same patient group. In recent trial data, Regeneron showed its cocktail cut the risk of hospitalization or death by 70%. Regeneron's trial included data from more participants than Vir's (4,567 participants versus 583). But Vir's performance may still give it an edge. And it also involves a lower dosage -- 500 mg. Regeneron's dosages start at 1,200 mg.
Here's the challenge
The challenge for antibody treatments has been their delivery method -- infusion. This requires a special setup at a healthcare facility. And administering an infusion takes at least 20 minutes -- and sometimes as long as an hour. But companies, including Vir and Regeneron, now are testing subcutaneous and intramuscular injections of these products. This could be key to increasing the use of antibodies.
So, could the monoclonal antibody for COVID-19 be a billion-dollar product for Vir? Possibly -- if it follows in the footsteps of rival Regeneron. Regeneron may generate $6 billion in sales from its antibody cocktail this year, Morningstar predicts.
Further down the road, Vir may benefit from its work in growth areas such as HBV. For instance, the global HBV market, at a compound annual growth rate of about 29%, is expected to reach more than $35 billion in 2030, according to Koncept Analytics. But that is only if product candidates make it through clinical trials and to market. And that's why Vir remains a risky stock.
Still, the potential for an EUA in the near future means Vir is a lot less risky than it was several weeks ago.
Is this a millionaire-maker?
Now, let's get back to our earlier question: Can Vir make you a millionaire?
Wall Street expects the stock to nearly double from today's level within the coming 12 months. If you invested $10,000 today, you could buy about 223 shares. If they reached that average Wall Street forecast of $88.40 in a year, your investment would be worth $19,713.
And what if the shares really took off? If Vir became a 10-bagger from today's level, the shares would be worth $450 apiece. And your investment would be worth $100,350.
Either of these scenarios would put a smile on most investors' faces. But it wouldn't score them a million dollars. Only a huge investment in Vir today would likely result in millionaire status down the road. But that doesn't mean aggressive investors shouldn't consider a smaller position in shares of this dynamic player in the coronavirus space.