More than a dozen biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies around the world are racing to deliver a successful vaccine to fight Covid-19 by the beginning of 2021.
As of August, 2020, Covid-19 has infected more than 19 million people and killed more than 700,000 worldwide. In the U.S. alone, more than 160,000 people have died from the virus. Additionally, the pandemic has caused turmoil in the U.S. economy, as businesses have closed temporarily and in some cases, permanently. Meanwhile, biotech and pharmaceutical companies are working at a rapid pace to test a vaccine as well as potential treatments for the virus, in the hopes that people and businesses can safely function again.
In the U.S., the federal government is providing approximately $10 billion in funding as part of Operation Warp Speed, a partnership between the public and private sectors to manufacture 300 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine by January, 2021. This funding has gone to seven biotech and pharmaceutical companies, including Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson. In exchange for government funding, these companies will have to hand doses of their vaccine to the U.S. once approved.
Development, testing, and production of vaccines typically lasts two to three years. But with more than 700,000 people dead across the world from the virus, scientists are attempting to bring a vaccine to market by 2021.
The companies that are part of Operation Warp Speed aren’t the only ones working on a vaccine. In fact, there are currently 165 vaccines in development and testing all over the world. In what appears to be a potential propaganda push, Russian researchers sped through the trial process and will reportedly begin vaccinations across the country in October, 2020. However, the World Health Organization has not included the Russian vaccine in its list of contenders.
Still, an effective and approved vaccine isn’t expected before the end of the year. Whichever company does bring an effective vaccine to market first is likely to be met with very high demand from every corner of the world.
Where the vaccine race stands
Once researchers have a vaccine, they have to test it in the lab, on animals, and eventually on people in three separate phases. During phase 1, the vaccine is tested on a small number of people to see if the vaccine is safe and to determine the dosage needed. When the vaccine moves on to phase 2, it’s tested on hundreds of people from different age groups to see how its effects might differ. Lastly, the vaccine enters phase 3, in which it’s tested against a placebo in tens of thousands of people. Then, the vaccine can be approved for use.
Here’s the status of some of the many companies—both large and small—working on a vaccine:
- Biotech company Moderna entered phase 3 of testing in July, 2020, administering the vaccine to 30,000 people. Moderna initially got $483 million in April, 2020, and then an additional $472 million from the U.S. government to work on the vaccine in collaboration with the National Institute of Health. Moderna reported that test subjects developed antibodies to the virus. The company reportedly hopes to deliver its vaccine in 2021 and to manufacture 500 million doses annually.
- Pharmaceutical company Pfizer developed four different vaccine possibilities and has moved into the third phase of testing with one vaccine it developed with German company BioNTech. Pfizer’s vaccine will also be tested on 30,000 volunteers. Pfizer anticipates having news regarding the third phase in October, 2020. The U.S. gave Pfizer $1.95 billion dollars anticipating that the company will bring 100 million doses of the vaccine to market by December, 2020.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services allocated $500 million in funding to Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine production. The pharmaceutical company’s vaccine candidate has shown to protect monkeys from the virus, allowing Johnson & Johnson to move onto human trials.
- Biotech company Novavax secured $1.6 billion in government funding to work on its vaccine. Novavax’s combined phase 1 and phase 2 trials reportedly showed antibody development in monkeys and humans. Novavax plans to deliver 100 million vaccine doses by the first quarter of 2021.
- AstraZeneca is working with the University of Oxford to produce a vaccine and received $1.2 billion from the U.S. AstraZeneca has begun testing its potential vaccine on humans and phase 1 and 2 trials showed that test subjects developed antibodies.
Any of the potential vaccines could fail or prove ineffective at any point in the trial phase. For that reason, investing in any of these companies could be risky.
How Covid-19 is being treated
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved any drug for treatment of the virus. The FDA did approve the antiviral drug remdesivir, which is made by Gilead Sciences, for emergency use during the pandemic. Gilead Sciences released findings in July that showed that remdesivir reduces the risk of death by 62% in severely sick patients, and reduced recovery time by about four days. However, more testing of the drug is still needed.
Meanwhile, pharmaceutical company Eli Lily and biotech company Regeneron are testing antibody treatments to Covid-19. Eli Lily started testing its treatment in 2,400 nursing home patients and workers this month. Regeneron is also in the process of testing its treatment on patients who have the virus, as well as people who might have come into contact with it.
Investing in biotech and healthcare
The news surrounding potential vaccines and treatments is changing daily, and it’s likely to be front and center through the remainder of the year.
Stash offers healthcare and biotech ETFs, which you can invest in. Stash also offers single stocks in healthcare and biotech companies. Keep in mind that investing in any industry comes with risk and that the biotech industry has historically been a volatile one.
Remember that diversifying your portfolio of investments is an important part of the Stash Way. And as markets continue to react to the outbreak of Covid-19, investing for the long term is the way to go.