When we think of coronavirus stocks, we think of those that already have soared. But there still are stocks with promising programs -- or even commercialized products -- that haven't. In many cases, it's just a question of time. For instance, clinical-stage and early commercial-stage biotech companies have quickly climbed following positive news from their coronavirus programs. Pharmaceutical companies generally are less reactive to one piece of news. Instead, they often gain over the long term.
Here, I've chosen three stocks in the treatment and vaccine space that have plenty of potential ahead for revenue -- and stock market gains. Let's take a close look at each of these future winners.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN 0.20%) makes one of the two antibody treatments authorized for use today in coronavirus patients. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted the company Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in November for use of its antibody cocktail in mild to moderate cases. The idea is to treat patients at risk for serious disease early so they won't need hospitalization.
The challenge so far has been the delivery method: The cocktail is given by infusion. That requires extra time and effort from healthcare facilities and potential patients. But Regeneron is tackling this issue. The company is testing the cocktail as a subcutaneous injection. And it already has positive trial data on the cocktail as a prevention method. Subcutaneous injection of the cocktail reduced risk of symptomatic infection in household contacts of coronavirus patients by 81%. Regeneron plans on requesting an EUA expansion to include this use.
The coronavirus treatment market represents significant opportunity. Morningstar last year predicted $6 billion in 2021 cocktail sales for Regeneron and European partner Roche. So far, the stock hasn't reflected this. The shares have increased about 4% year to date. And the stock is trading close to a low in relation to forward earnings estimates, so you can pick up the shares at a bargain today.
Pfizer (PFE -1.28%) is the leading player in the coronavirus vaccine space. It entered the market first. And so far, it's fully vaccinated more than 43 million Americans compared with rival Moderna's 36 million. Pfizer said earlier this year that it expects to generate $15 billion in sales from its coronavirus vaccine in 2021. It shares that with partner BioNTech. But this still leaves Pfizer with a blockbuster level of revenue from the product.
Recent troubles for rivals AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have offered Pfizer another boost. Europe doesn't intend on renewing coronavirus vaccine orders from the two companies, according to a report in Italian newspaper La Stampa. The European Union said it will buy 1.8 billion Pfizer vaccine doses through 2023.
Pfizer's stock price hasn't benefited from vaccine news. The stock is only up about 7% this year. That's because Pfizer has a vast array of products and investors are looking at the whole package. But good news is ahead. Pfizer recently completed the spinoff of Upjohn, a business that was holding back growth. Sales from Pfizer's blockbuster drugs like anticoagulant Eliquis and oncology drug Ibrance, as well as the coronavirus vaccine, are likely to boost earnings and the share price over time. Now is a great time to get in on this story.
Gritstone Oncology (GRTS 10.98%) doesn't yet have products on the market. But its investigational coronavirus vaccine could carve out market share if trials are successful. Here's why: The candidate includes material from the coronavirus' spike protein and other viral antigens. That means it may better handle variants than a vaccine targeting uniquely the spike. (The spike protein is used to infect.)
Gritstone late last month dosed the first participant in its phase 1 study. It expects to report initial data around midyear, so it's clear Gritstone's potential vaccine would be for use down the road. And that's OK. Experts say the coronavirus is here to stay. We'll need vaccinations and treatments well into the future.
Another interesting aspect of Gritstone's program is this: Phase 2 will study the candidate as a booster after vaccination with a currently authorized coronavirus vaccine. If all trials are successful, Gritstone could be looking at two potential audiences: those who need full vaccination and those who need booster shots only.
Gritstone shares have climbed more than 100% so far this year. But Wall Street expects them to gain 171% within the coming 12 months. If trials go well, that's very possible. But one word of caution: I recommend Gritstone for aggressive investors only. Hopes are riding on the coronavirus program right now. And that makes shares of this biotech company very vulnerable to any disappointments.