COVID-19 has radically transformed the valuations of vaccines in the stock market. Novavax has jumped from $4 a share to $164. Moderna has run up from $19 to $304. The vaccine stocks have run up the most because that subsector is still our best hope for defeating COVID-19 once and for all. But a lot of success has already been priced in by the market. Are there other biotech stocks that might run up 10 times in valuation?
Our roundtable of Fool contributors has three biotech nominees that might pull off a 10-bagger over the next several years. Here's why they like the stocks of 10x Genomics (TXG 2.35%), Atea Pharmaceuticals (AVIR 1.92%), and Doximity (DOCS 2.32%).
1. Powering the next generation of biology research
Patrick Bafuma (10x Genomics): A year and a half into the coronavirus pandemic and there are a number of lessons learned. One of them is that well-funded basic science and research programs are unlikely to be a bad thing. And it seems that life science research company 10x Genomics is at the right place at the right time to capitalize on that idea.
While not strictly a COVID-19 stock per se, 10x has enabled its users to study the virus like never before -- by examining its effects on individual cells. The ability to look at the single cell level is truly groundbreaking, and the tools from 10x allow users to do so on multiple levels. In a conversation with Fool.com contributor Keith Speights earlier this year, CEO Serge Saxonov shed some light on how 10x helped research COVID-19.
"Certainly last year, there was a huge increase in how our tools have been used in infectious disease, with COVID," he said, "specifically ... I think just about every aspect from very basic understanding, how does the virus actually get into the body, what tissues it infects, to making antibody therapeutics, to helping develop vaccines to understanding what separates people who have severe response to those who have mild response, and how to treat them differently."
The proof has been in the earnings reports -- its customers can not get enough of 10x's product line. The life science company grew revenue 67% from the third quarter of 2018 to $62.1 million in Q3 2019 -- its first quarter as a publicly traded company. In the most recent quarter, revenue totaled $116 million, up 170% year over year, and 9% sequentially. Admittedly that is off an easy comparable, given we were in the first wave of the pandemic and under massive worldwide lockdowns. But compared to pre-pandemic revenue in the second quarter of 2019, when the company generated $55.8 million, it's not just that revenue rebounded, it's that 10x continued its torrid pre-pandemic growth trajectory.
But at a $17 billion market cap, does it still have room to grow? While thousands of labs are using 10x products, the company estimates there are "well over 100,000 researchers globally available to 10x." It estimates that two-thirds of them could benefit from single-cell and spatial genomics. And the company estimates a $15 billion total addressable market where 10x Genomics solutions offer immediate alternatives or a complementary service. So there is plenty of runway. Not to mention, the company continues to expand its suite of offerings, pushing the boundaries of current research methods.
COVID-19 taught us that we must continue to push the boundaries of science, and 10x is doing just that, rewarding shareholders in the the process. Just under a triple since its initial public offering in September 2019 against a 47% gain for the S&P 500, there is plenty of continued runway for growth as the fledgling single-cell and spatial biology fields grow. As this continues to happen I see striking similarities to the early days of Illumina for shareholders.
2. An emerging opportunity
George Budwell (Atea Pharmaceuticals): A tenfold return on an investment isn't unheard of in the realm of biotech, but it certainly isn't the norm. To unearth these types of life-changing earnings opportunities, investors generally have to wade into the risky end of the biotech stock pool. In doing so, one has to accept the very real possibility of losing a significant portion of their capital. Biotech, in short, is a double-edged sword -- a fact most investors would be wise not to forget.
So which risky biotech stock could potentially bring home a tenfold return within a reasonable time frame? I think one of the best vehicles for this purpose is Atea Pharmaceuticals. Atea is working with pharma titan Roche on a COVID-19 antiviral pill called AT-527, which might be able to be taken at home and produced in quantities large enough that would allow it to be widely distributed in countries unable to secure adequate supplies of vaccines.
Now, there are several other entities working on an oral COVID-19 pill. Merck and its partner, privately held Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, recently posted impressive interim results from a late-stage trial showing that their pill, molnupiravir, cut hospitalizations -- relative to patients on placebo -- in half. Atea and Roche are slated to showcase their first trial results for AT-527 later this year. As a result, the two pills -- plus a third possible treatment from Pfizer -- might all be commercially available by mid-2022.
What's the upside? To be honest, there are no solid revenue estimates for these types of COVID-19 treatments. There's no way know what their side effect profiles will look like, if doctors will readily prescribe them in lieu of a vaccine when possible, or how the competition among the major players will shake out. Atea and Roche, though, may still have a ridiculously powerful revenue generator on their hands. If AT-527 can yield an acceptable safety profile and strong efficacy results, this oral medication might be able to rival the record-breaking sales of these initial COVID-19 vaccine sales. That's a long-shot estimate to be sure. But it is a distinct possibility.
3. Telehealth is just getting started -- and Doximity is the top stock in this space
While the vaccine stocks have seen the largest gains in the COVID-19 era, another subsector has done incredibly well: telehealth. Stocks like Teladoc Health and Zoom Video Communications have soared as more and more people have limited in-person contact. However it's a new entrant, Doximity, that has the strongest business in this space. I believe this stock will emerge as the big winner in telehealth over the next few years. Here's why.
Doximity was created to allow doctors and other healthcare professionals to network over the internet. The company is like Facebook or Microsoft's LinkedIn for doctors. Eighty percent of American physicians are on the platform, as are 90% of medical school students. The company has seen amazing growth, even before the pandemic emerged. And the network effect will keep its monopoly intact.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company had two main business lines. Drug companies and other healthcare players would pay to reach the company's vast physician network. And the company would help doctors and other healthcare workers navigate employment opportunities. The company achieved profitability fairly quickly, and it enjoys a 30% profit margin today.
When COVID-19 upset the world, Doximity responded by quickly rolling out its third business line -- its new telehealth service, Dialer. This free service allowed physicians to use the internet to communicate with their patients. And Doximity charged physicians additional fees when they wanted to expand the service.
Dialer was extremely popular with the doctors on the network. The company reported 63 million telehealth visits in 2020, a number that dwarfs all the other telehealth players. (Teladoc had 11 million visits.) So revenue has zoomed during the pandemic, running up 100% in the most recent quarter.
While Doximity already has a $14 billion valuation, I believe this telehealth superstar can easily pull off a 10-bagger over the next decade. The company is hugely profitable, doubling its revenue, and its optionality allows it to find additional revenue at the drop of a hat.