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Which COVID-19 stocks are leading the vaccine race?


Coronavirus one dollar bill with picture of G. Washington president with surgical mask.

Hundreds of companies have candidate COVID-19 vaccines in the works, but just a handful are in the final league.

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Since the realities of the pandemic became known this year, hundreds of organisations around the world have taken up the challenge of developing a COVID-19 vaccine. To date, there are 151 vaccines being developed, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), but just 10 have reached the crucial Phase 3 trials.

This is an important milestone. Phase 3 is where organisations are approved to begin testing on large numbers of people – typically tens or hundreds of thousands of volunteers from around the world. It's significant because it's the last major hurdle before approval can be granted for licensing.

Unfortunately, this isn't a process that can be easily rushed. Despite promises made by Donald Trump of a vaccine being made available this year, Phase 3 trials typically take many months or years to complete. Only one vaccine is expected to be finished testing by 2021, and the remaining expect end dates of between 2022 and 2023.

Of the 10 vaccines on the frontline, 4 are being developed in China, 1 is in Russia and several others are in the US or from multinational organisations. Not all are publicly listed, although most (aside from Russian Gamaleya Research Institute) have partnered with a listed company.

As far as stock performance goes, many of them have seen staggering success. So far this year, British firm NovaVax has seen its stock price up 2,400%, US biotech Moderna has risen 267% and Chinese vaccine maker CanSino Biologics is up 167%.

With so much resting on a cure, it makes sense that investors are bullish. But with so many companies joining the hunt – many of which have only just recently listed – it's not always easy to work out which of the lot have the most or the least potential.

Below are the 10 listed companies whose vaccine candidates have reached Phase 3 testing.

Note: Study completion dates are estimates made by the researchers at the time they started the study as published on WHO.

Listed companies at Phase 3 trials

1. Sinovac Biotech Ltd (NASDAQ)

Sinovac Biotech is a Chinese biotechnology company headquartered in Beijing. It expects to begin analysing final-stage data from human trials this year.

  • YTD performance (to 29 September): 15.1%
  • Market capitalisation: US$460.249 million
  • Study start date: 21 July 2020
  • Estimated study completion: October 2021

2. Sinopharm (HKEX)

Sinopharm Group is a Chinese pharmaceuticals company currently trialling two vaccine candidates in partnership with the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products and the Beijing Institute of Biological Products. Both vaccines are in Phase 3 human testing as of September.

  • YTD performance (to 29 September): -41.39%
  • Market capitalisation: US$51.645 billion
  • Study start date: 18 July 2020
  • Estimated completion date: Unknown

3. AstraZeneca (NASDAQ)

AstraZeneca is a British multinational pharmaceutical company headquartered in Cambridge. It partnered with Oxford University to begin trials on a COVID-19 vaccine in July this year.

  • YTD performance (to 29 September): 9.30%
  • Market capitalisation: US$145.69B billion
  • Study start date: 17 August 2020
  • Estimated completion date: 5 October 2022

4. CanSino Biologics (HKEX)

CanSino Biologics is a Chinese vaccine maker working in partnership with the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology to trial a COVID-19 vaccine. Governments in Mexico, Pakistan and Russia have all agreed to begin Phase 3 testing using CanSino’s vaccine candidate.

  • YTD performance (to 29 September): 167.34%
  • Market capitalisation: US$56.688 billion
  • Study start date: 15 September 2020
  • Estimated completion date: 30 January 2022

5. Johnson & Johnson (NYSE)

American pharmaceutical corporation Johnson & Johnson is the parent company of Janssen Vaccines & Prevention. Janssen began Phase 3 testing of a COVID-19 vaccine in September 2020.

  • YTD performance (to 29 September): 0.85%
  • Market capitalisation: US$387.314 billion
  • Study start date: 7 September 2020
  • Estimated completion date: 10 March 2023

6. Novavax Inc (NASDAQ)

Novavax is a US vaccine development firm headquartered in Maryland. It started Phase 3 human trials in the UK in mid-September.

  • YTD performance (to 29 September): 2,404.05%
  • Market capitalisation: US$6.813 billion
  • Study start date: 27 July 2020
  • Estimated completion date: 27 October 2022

7. Moderna Inc (NASDAQ)

Moderna is an American biotechnology company. In April 2020, it received a US$483 million grant from the US government to accelerate the development of a coronavirus vaccine in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In August 2020, it entered Phase 3 human trials.

  • YTD performance (to 29 September): 266.87%
  • Market capitalisation: US$27.838 billion
  • Study start date: 27 July 2020
  • Estimated completion date: 27 October 2022

8. BioNTech (NASDAQ)

BioNTech is a German biotechnology company. It has partnered with Chinese pharmaceutical firm Fosun Pharma and US pharmaceutical company Pfizer to trial and manufacture a vaccine candidate.

  • YTD performance (to 29 September): 96.28%
  • Market capitalisation: US$15.884 billion
  • Study start date: 29 April 2020
  • Estimated completion date: 14 November 2022

9. Fosun Pharma (HKEX)

Fosun Pharma is a Chinese pharmaceutical firm. It has partnered with German biotech company BioNTech and US pharmaceutical company Pfizer to trial and manufacture a vaccine candidate.

  • YTD performance (to 29 September): 37.18%
  • Market capitalisation: US$84.576 billion
  • Study start date: 29 April 2020
  • Estimated completion date: 14 November 2022

10. Pfizer Inc (NYSE)

Pfizer Inc is a US pharmaceutical company. It has partnered with German biotech company BioNTech and Chinese pharmaceutical firm Fosun Pharma to trial and manufacture a vaccine candidate.

  • YTD performance (to 29 September): -7.12%
  • Market capitalisation: US$202.215 billion
  • Study start date: 29 April 2020
  • Estimated completion date: 14 November 2022

How to by COVID-19 stocks

You'll note that most of the listed companies working on a COVID-19 cure are from countries outside of Australia. To buy shares in a global company you'll need to open an account with a share trading platform that offers global stock markets.

The great thing is that while some stock exchanges, such as those in China, Russia or India, can be hard to access from Australia, many companies dual-list in the United States. This means that you can buy many of these stocks using a share trading app with US market access, such as eToro.

For example, AstraZeneca is a British company that is listed on both the London Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ in the US. And Sinovac Biotech is a Chinese company primarily listed in Hong Kong, but it also has a secondary listing on the NASDAQ.

This won't always be the case but it's a useful tip to remember when navigating global stocks.

Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of futures, stocks, ETFs, CFDs, options or any specific provider, service or offering. It should not be relied upon as investment advice or construed as providing recommendations of any kind. Futures, stocks, ETFs and options trading involves substantial risk of loss and therefore are not appropriate for all investors. Trading CFDs and forex on leverage comes with a higher risk of losing money rapidly. Past performance is not an indication of future results. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before making any trades. Read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and Target Market Determination (TMD) for the product on the provider's website.

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