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5 Stocks to Own for the Surge in Coronavirus Variants

By Jason Hawthorne - Jul 14, 2021 at 5:40AM

Key Points

  • A recent rise in cases may keep testing around longer than anticipated.
  • An opportunity still exists for companies that can develop effective treatments.
  • Vaccine boosters are likely to be necessary to maintain protection.

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Despite easing restrictions, COVID is going to be around a lot longer than many think.

Although the pandemic has mostly faded from the front pages, mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are increasing the odds that COVID will make a resurgence this winter. Add in many Americans' hesitancy over vaccines, and it appears the companies providing testing, treatments, and vaccine boosters could remain a part of our lives longer than it seemed only a few months ago.

That's why Fulgent Genetics (FLGT 1.24%), Lucira Health (LHDX -0.31%), Abbott Labs (ABT 0.90%), Roche Holdings (RHHBY 2.34%), and BioNTech (BNTX 1.11%) are on my watch list as cases start climbing. Here's how each company could profit from the continuing efforts to end the pandemic.

A customer making a purchase in a bookstore where everyone is wearing a COVID mask.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Fulgent Genetics

Even before the pandemic, Fulgent's market capitalization tripled in 2019 with 52% sales growth. Last year, COVID-19 pushed growth off the charts. Revenue rose 1,200% on the back of a 74-fold increase in testing volume. Beyond the numbers, the company established important relationships with state health departments, school systems, employers, and insurers.

The company has an opportunity on multiple fronts. First, it was awarded part of a CDC contract to track the virus using genomic sequencing. The surveillance will provide information about transmission and mutations to help all levels of government better respond to the crisis.

Also, daily case counts are starting to tick back up after a 95% drop from the peak in January. That includes areas where the company has testing agreements like California, New York City, and Utah. Management has already raised guidance once this year. The persistence of COVID could provide another boost when it reports earnings in early August.

2. Lucira Health

Lucira Health has only been a public company since February after launching an at-home COVID test in November 2020. The prescription-based product was the first at-home COVID test to receive emergency use authorization (EUA) in the U.S. It generated about $270,000 in the fourth quarter. That was followed by a 16-fold jump in the first quarter of 2021 to $4.5 million. 

In April, the company's over-the-counter test received EUA. The molecular test accurately identifies 94% of people who have the virus and 98% of those who do not. Management isn't offering guidance yet, but it seemed hopeful after beating revenue estimates for the first quarter.

So far, Lucira has partnerships with a sports franchise, several prominent healthcare systems, and Amazon.com. As awareness increases, expect demand for the company's tests to grow. To take advantage, it will need to ramp up production quickly. Currently, the tests are sold out on the company's website and do not appear in searches on Amazon.com.

3. Abbott Laboratories

Similar to Lucira, Abbott's BinaxNOW COVID test will provide results in about half an hour. Unlike Lucira's test, Abbott's antigen test only detects about 85% of infections. It is just as accurate as Lucira in identifying those who are not infected.

Abbott has a clear advantage over other at-home tests in terms of distribution. It has relationships with CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart, among others and was shipping product a day after it received EUA.

In early June, the company lowered full-year guidance citing a sharp dropoff in demand for rapid COVID testing. That warning came when the delta variant was weeks away from American minds. Now that it is the dominant strain in the country, and cases are once again rising, a resurgence in testing could boost the company's outlook for the remainder of 2021.

4. Roche Holdings

Roche has two ways to gain if the SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to be a an issue. First, its nasal antigen test is a 15 minute, at-home diagnostic tool. It uses a swab from the lower part of the nostrils. That's a lot more comfortable than many tests while still providing between 86% and 91% accuracy in identifying true positives. The company has obtained EUA from the Food and Drug Administration, as well as a CE mark, allowing the test to be marketed in the European Union.

The second way Roche is helping to fight the pandemic is in treating COVID. The company -- with partner Regeneron -- has an antibody cocktail that management claims reduces hospitalizations and deaths of mild COVID cases by 70%. That drug has received EUA in the U.S. and Europe.

For severely ill COVID patients, it was granted EUA for its drug, tocilizumab. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine did not demonstrate statistically different outcomes between pneumonia patients receiving the drug and those who got a placebo. Like Gilead's Remdesivir, that might not stand in the way of revenue as clinicians try whatever is available for the most severe cases. 

5. BioNTech

Unlike testing and treatments, BioNTech's contribution to the fight against COVID -- along with partner Pfizer -- is in preventing the disease. Several studies across the globe have shown its vaccine remains highly effective against the variants. In preventing the worrisome delta strain, data from the U.K., Scotland, and Canada all showed the drug offered at least 79% protection.

Pfizer and BioNTech, as well as fellow vaccine producer Moderna have said boosters will be needed at some point to maintain the level of immunity. Although regulatory agencies in the U.S. have not agreed so far, they have left the door open to additional jabs as more data becomes available. If that happens, shares are likely to rise as Wall Street prices in a stream of revenue extending into the years ahead.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Jason Hawthorne owns shares of BioNTech SE and Fulgent Genetics, Inc. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon and Fulgent Genetics, Inc. The Motley Fool recommends CVS Health and recommends the following options: long January 2022 $1,920 calls on Amazon and short January 2022 $1,940 calls on Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Abbott Laboratories Stock Quote
Abbott Laboratories
ABT
$111.48 (0.90%) $0.99
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Stock Quote
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
WMT
$132.22 (1.85%) $2.40
Roche Holding AG Stock Quote
Roche Holding AG
RHHBY
$42.00 (2.34%) $0.96
Amazon.com, Inc. Stock Quote
Amazon.com, Inc.
AMZN
$143.55 (2.07%) $2.91
Pfizer Inc. Stock Quote
Pfizer Inc.
PFE
$50.11 (3.77%) $1.82
CVS Health Corporation Stock Quote
CVS Health Corporation
CVS
$106.39 (2.05%) $2.14
Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. Stock Quote
Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc.
WBA
$40.59 (1.30%) $0.52
Gilead Sciences, Inc. Stock Quote
Gilead Sciences, Inc.
GILD
$62.96 (0.82%) $0.51
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Stock Quote
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
REGN
$628.71 (0.77%) $4.81
Fulgent Genetics, Inc. Stock Quote
Fulgent Genetics, Inc.
FLGT
$52.41 (1.24%) $0.64
BioNTech SE Stock Quote
BioNTech SE
BNTX
$160.35 (1.11%) $1.76
Moderna, Inc. Stock Quote
Moderna, Inc.
MRNA
$171.18 (-0.37%) $0.63
Lucira Health, Inc. Stock Quote
Lucira Health, Inc.
LHDX
$3.18 (-0.31%) $0.01

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

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