About two years ago, after reading an article about a mysterious respiratory virus that had been discovered in Wuhan, China, BioNTech (BNTX 1.63%) CEO Uğur Şahin felt his company was one of the few that could rapidly develop an effective vaccine for what he feared would become a pandemic-level contagion. His accurate intuition led to a 140% gain for shares in 2020 as that vaccine -- now called Comirnaty -- was created and tested with the help of its much larger partner, Pfizer (PFE 1.04%). That vaccine's successful rollout propelled BioNTech stock to a further 216% increase overall in 2021, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.
And that incredible rise is less than half of the year-to-date gain it was sitting on back in August.
Analysts believe that BioNTech booked nearly $20 billion in revenue in 2021 -- we'll find out when it reports on its fourth quarter. Analysts are also projecting nearly $10 billion in annual earnings -- more than $41 per share. All of this for a company that had a market capitalization of only $7 billion when COVID-19 first hit our radar.
Taking a look back can help explain where the company stands now, and what will matter most for it in the years ahead.
When Şahin and his wife, Dr. Ozlem Tureci, founded BioNTech in 2008, they dreamed of bringing revolutionary treatments to market. However, they weren't aiming to protect billions from a virus. Their goal then was to develop individualized treatments that would attack cancer cells based on their genetic makeup. Now, thanks to the roughly 3 billion doses of Comirnaty BioNTech and Pfizer likely produced last year -- and the projected 4 billion they'll produce this year -- they might realize their vision.
More people worldwide are getting COVID-19 vaccines and boosters every day. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to widen the age ranges of those who can get those shots. As such, BioNTech's coronavirus-related revenues are not going to fall off a cliff in 2022. In fact, most analysts are anticipating that sales will only decline slightly. But that's not what should excite shareholders most.
In November, the company received fast track designation from the Food and Drug Administration for BNT-111, its potential treatment for advanced melanoma. The company has 19 candidate treatments in oncology in its pipeline. BNT-111, currently in phase 2 trials, is the one that is furthest along the development path.
An "off-the-shelf" treatment, it's based on known antigens common to the targeted cancer. To treat cancers on an individualized basis, the company is developing BNT-122, which also targets melanoma. That candidate, too, is in phase 2 trials.
BioNTech burst onto the scene in 2020 by rapidly developing a COVID-19 vaccine that used messenger RNA. The company reaped the financial rewards in 2021. Now, with its pipeline full of promising cancer treatments, the clinical data BioNTech releases in the year ahead could help clarify its chances of becoming a biotechnology juggernaut.