The world’s largest online market research store “Research and Markets” (R&M) has officially named 15 pharmaceutical companies at the forefront of the quest for the COVID-19 vaccine. Although in some parts of the world the state of the pandemic is slowly improving, future numbers of the virus are increasing and vaccine developers are doing everything they can to find a solution as soon as possible.
In January of this year, the genome sequence of the COVID-19 virus was retained and the first human trials of Moderna’s vaccine candidate ($MRNA) had begun soon. Normally, vaccine development takes between five until seven years to be fully approved. Due to necessity, a time limit of 18 months is now mentioned in which a new vaccine could be available.
After thorough research and putting the companies side by side, R&M has named 15 pharmaceutical companies that can be leading the race to find the COVID-19 vaccine. No statements have been made about the order, therefore it can’t be said whether the ranking of the company tells something about the potential of the vaccine.
1. Pfizer ($PFE)
Pfizer Inc. has entered into a joint venture with BioNtech Se to develop and distribute BioNTech’s mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate BNT-162. The two companies have previously collaborated to develop influenza preventive vaccines in 2018, and the new company will build on this relationship to accelerate the development of BNT-162. The medicine from BioNTech and Pfizer is now in research phase III. Should the medicine be approved, Pfizer initially wants to develop 100 million doses of the medicine.
The fourth quarter of 2020 should be incredibly important for Pfizer. There’s the Upjohn-Mylan close scheduled to wrap up. The potential filing for approval of BNT162b2 could be right around the corner. Pfizer doesn’t have to win FDA approval of the vaccine to open the door for a huge amount of money to flow in. The $1.95 billion supply deal with the U.S. government requires only emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA. That EUA could be on the way within the next three months.
2. GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK)
GlaxoSmithKline has marketed many vaccines, including vaccines for HPV and the seasonal flu. They announced that they will give the University of Queensland access to their vaccine adjuvant platform. They have also provided access to Clover Biopharmaceuticals, Inc. who are using it in conjunction with their vaccine candidate, COVID-19 S-Trimer. Recently partner Vir and GlaxoSmithKline begin late-stage testing and a pivotal study of the COVID-19 antibody medicine coming closer to a phase III study.
3. Inovio Pharmaceuticals ($INO)
Inovio has completed preclinical testing of their vaccine candidate INO-4800, and the company showed promise as of April by starting 30 participating clinical trials in the US, China and South Korea. Inovio has said it expects the results of the study to be available by the fall and plans to have 1 million doses of the vaccine ready for further clinical trials or emergency use by the end of the year. Despite this, the amount of analysts who think that the company is falling behind seems to grow.
4. Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ)
Johnson & Johnson is partnering with BARDA to develop a candidate vaccine. In March, the company said it had begun preclinical testing on multiple candidates in Boston, and aims to have a vaccine candidate by the end of the month. The company has joined the growing list of companies with billion-dollar agreements to sell COVID-19 vaccines to the U.S. government. The company is also receiving attention from the Canadian government. J&J said its phase III clinical assessment will begin in september, enrolling 60,000 participants. Thanks to various financial injections it received, the possibilities for this pharmaceutical giant still do not seem limited.
5. Novavax Inc. ($NVAX)
As of February, Novavax reported that it has several vaccine candidates in preclinical animal studies. Soon after, the company announced a partnership with Emergent Biosolutions to produce an experimental vaccine. The pharmaceutical has previously said it could begin late-stage trials as early as October. The company’s vaccine, called NVX-CoV2373, is currently in phase two trials. Novavax said it expects to finalize an agreement that would see it begin to supply Canada with doses “as early as the second quarter of 2021,” the company said. Recently the company announced Canada will purchase 76 million doses of the Novavax coronavirus vaccine.
6. Sanofi ($SNY)
Sanofi began working with BARDA to use its recombinant DNA platform to test a preclinical candidate vaccine for COVID-19. The French company previously worked with the organization on flu vaccines. The pharmaceutical is digging into the cash it amassed earlier this year with the sale of its $11.7 billion stake in Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, snapping up the biotech firm Principia Biopharma in a $3.7 billion deal. Right now Sanofi and Regeneron give up on the arthritis medicine to treat COVID-19.
7. Heat Biologics ($HTBX)
Heat Biologics has announced it is partnering with the University of Miami to develop a vaccine against COVID-19. Its vaccine candidate, gp96, has been added to the World Health Organizations’ draft landscape of 41 vaccine candidates. The company has also joined the Alliance for Biosecurity, which can help it secure funding to support the rapid development and distribution of its COVID-19 vaccine. The USPTO has issued a new patent – No. 10,758,611 – to Heat Biologics for compositions of matter that are part of the company’s gp96 platform in combination with a T-cell co-stimulatory agonist in a single therapy.
8. BioNTech ($BNTX)
While BioNTech’s primary focus is on cancer, the company is also using its deep experience in mRNA-based vaccines to develop a pipeline for a range of infectious diseases. BioNTech is currently working with Pfizer to develop its candidate vaccine BNT-162 and with Fosun Pharma to conduct clinical trials in China. Recently, positive news came out about Pfizer and BioNTech, which revealed that the main coronavirus candidate, BNT162b2, appears to generate antibodies in the subjects at higher concentrations than those found in patients recovered from COVID-19. This applies to candidates from 18 up to 85 years old.
9. Vaxart ($VXRT)
Earlier this year the company announced a partnership with Emergent BioSolutions to help develop and manufacture its oral vaccine candidate, which will take the form of a tablet that is stable at room temperature. The company believes that an oral vaccine will provide a significant logistical advantage in offering mass vaccination campaigns. The company submitted an IND in August to the FDA to commence phase 1 trials. Its stimulation of mucosal antibodies and killer-T cells could prove very effective against the coronavirus.
10. Vir Biotechnology ($VIR)
Vir is partnering with WuXi Biologics and Biogeb to develop and test its lead clinical vaccine candidate. The candidate has been developed using an antibody-based approach that allows the vaccine to remain effective even when the virus mutates. Vir Biotech plans to start mid-to-late stage study of COVID-19 antibody this month. It will then start – together with GSK – a phase II/III study of COVID-19 antibody treatment. The candidate, VIR-7832, is a monoclonal antibody that has demonstrated the ability to neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, in vitro. The medicine has also demonstrated a high barrier to resistance and an ability to recruit immune cells to kill already infected cells.
11. Moderna Therapeutics ($MRNA)
In January, Moderna Therapeutics developed the first batches of its COVID19 vaccine, just 42 days after the genetic sequence of the COVID-19 virus was released by Chinese researchers. Moderna became the first company to take a COVID-19 vaccine into a phase III clinical trial, which will test how safe and effective the inoculation is. Enrollment of the 30,000 people taking part in the clinical assessment is expected to be completed later this month with results slated for as early as October.
12. Emergent BioSolutions ($EBS)
Emergent BioSolutions is focused on developing treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. In the spring, the company announced that it has begun to develop two candidate hyperimmune products against the disease. These therapies are designed to boost the immune response to fight COVID-19 and are derived from antibodies found in the blood of people who have tested positive for the virus. The company has also announced partnerships with two companies, Novavax and Vaxart, to provide development and manufacturing services for potential vaccines against COVID-19.
13. Dynavax ($DVAX)
The company is working with the University of Queensland, Australia to develop a vaccine against COVID-19. In March, the company also announced that it would make the vaccine adjuvant technology available to other companies working on a vaccine through a partnership with CEPI. Things have been tough lately, but now this biotech has a vaccine for treating hepatitis B and is tackling COVID-19. A problem is that it’s still valued at less than $1 billion.
14. Geovax ($GOVX)
Geovax is using its expertise in human immunotherapies to develop a candidate vaccine for COVID-19. The company announced that it had identified three potential vaccine candidates and is working to narrow them down to the most effective option based on the results of animal studies. The Company’s vaccine program was subsequently added to the “Draft Landscape of COVID-19 Candidate Vaccines” by the World Health Organization.
15. Curevac ($CVAC)
Curevac has several years of experience in developing vaccines and has developed a new technology that allows them to remain stable without refrigeration. They have already started developing their COVID-19 vaccine candidate and have started clinical trials of the vaccine candidate. Curevac has received funding from CEPI and the EU to enable the company to quickly scale up its production. Interesting note today, Elon Musk visited CureVac in Germany to explore Tesla’s role in vaccine development. And it seems lately anywhere he goes things turn into gold.
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