Wall Street has high hopes for certain stocks over the coming 12 months. Two of them are biotech companies that took center stage during earlier days of the pandemic. I'm talking about Novavax (NVAX -7.42%) and Ocugen (OCGN 1.53%). Both companies raced to bring a coronavirus vaccine to market.

As it turns out, Novavax reached commercialization -- but later than today's market leaders, Pfizer and Moderna. And Ocugen dropped its flagship vaccine program and replaced it with earlier-stage work on inhaled-vaccine candidates.

Both stocks are falling in the double digits this year, and that's after poor performance last year. But could they be heading for a major rebound as Wall Street predicts? And should you get in on these recovery stories?

A year behind rivals

Novavax brought its vaccine to market a year to a year-and-a-half later than rivals. (The time frame depends on each particular country's regulatory process.) In any case, the company missed out on the biggest opportunity for vaccine revenue.

That said, it still generated $1.5 billion in product sales last year. And it recently said it won potential advance purchase agreements for $800 million in vaccine sales outside of the U.S. for this year.

Still, costs to support the commercial structure have been too high, considering the vaccine's revenue potential today and moving forward. So Novavax recently announced big moves to realign things. The company said it would cut 25% of its workforce and consolidate its facilities.

Novavax says its efforts should reduce costs by 40% to 50% in 2024, compared with last year. That refers to research and development costs and selling, general, and administrative expenses.

At the same time, Novavax is preparing to update its vaccine for the fall vaccination season. Regulators will announce the particular strain to target next month.

The company's main headwind is that its technology requires more time than mRNA vaccines -- those sold by Moderna and Pfizer. That said, it still may be able to carve out some share in this fall vaccination market.

Meanwhile, Novavax's combined coronavirus/flu vaccine has generated positive data in a phase 2 trial. But the company may have to look for collaborations or other funding options to further develop that candidate.

A project on rocky ground

Now let's consider Ocugen. The company's shares soared when it announced it acquired co-commercialization rights to Bharat Biotech's Covaxin in the U.S. -- and then later extended this agreement to North America.

The project started on rocky ground. The U.S. already had plenty of vaccine doses, and Ocugen's data came from Covaxin's clinical trials in India. U.S. regulators asked for additional data from new trials, and this lengthened the time frame and deepened development costs.

A recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration decision technically marked the end of Ocugen's Covaxin program. The FDA said monovalent vaccines -- or those targeting just the original coronavirus strain -- no longer would be used in the U.S. In its most recent earnings report, Ocugen said it would end the Covaxin program as it wasn't "commercially viable," due to that decision.

Instead, Ocugen has shifted its vaccine program focus to inhaled formulations for coronavirus and flu vaccinations. The company is trying for government funding and hopes to start clinical trials next year.

Ocugen has two other specialties in the pipeline: Neocart, a cell-therapy candidate for knee cartilage lesions, and a portfolio of early-stage candidates for eye disease.

Neocart represents its nearest-to-market candidate and, therefore, its first possibility for revenue. It's an asset the company acquired, and now Novavax must conduct a phase 3 confirmatory trial before applying for regulatory approval. It aims to launch that trial this year.

Time to buy?

Let's get to the big question: Should you buy shares of these two biotech companies?

Novavax shares are heading for a 22% drop this year after a significant loss last year. The company is taking big steps to turn things around, and any good news could spark gains.

Considering the headwinds Novavax is facing right now, however, I think a 175% increase in just 12 months may be a bit optimistic. Aggressive investors may consider picking up a few shares, but most investors would be better off watching for progress in Novavax's recovery story.

I'm even more wary about Ocugen. The company focused specifically on eye disease before the pandemic, then went after closer-to-market assets to help fund the pipeline. That's a good idea. But in my opinion, Covaxin was the wrong product to choose right from the start. Pfizer and Moderna already dominated the U.S. vaccine market, leaving little room for newcomers.

Neocart may be a better choice for potential revenue. And a victory here could lift the stock. Importantly, it also could help Ocugen advance the rest of its candidates.

An increase of more than 500% over the next year, as predicted by Wall Street, is possible. Ocugen has been known to soar on any good news, but I'm not convinced that gain would be lasting. That's why I wouldn't recommend this high-risk stock to long-term investors right now.