Pfizer’s Covid-19 Success Bodes Very Well For Moderna
[Updated 11/11/2020] Why Pfizer’s Vaccine Data Is Good News For Moderna
While Pfizer‘s (NYSE: PFE) surprisingly strong initial Covid-19 vaccine efficacy readout likely marks the beginning of the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, it probably doesn’t mean too much for Pfizer stock, given the limited potential profits and challenges with distribution. In fact, we think that the strong data from the vaccine – which is developed using messenger RNA (mRNA) technology could actually mean a lot more for Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA), another Covid-19 vaccine player, whose entire drug pipeline is based on mRNA technology.
While messenger RNA (mRNA) based vaccines were touted to be more potent and quicker to deploy compared to traditional vaccines, they have never been used commercially to date. Now the initial data from Pfizer and its German partner BioNtech’s Covid-19 vaccine appears to confirm this, with the vaccine’s efficacy standing at 90% based on initial data, versus the U.S. FDA’s baseline efficacy requirement of just 50% for the approval for Covid-19 vaccines. The vaccine will also be the first to seek emergency use approval from the FDA. While Moderna has a Covid vaccine of its own in the works, with efficacy data expected any time now, the strong response of Pfizer’s mRNA bodes well not just for Moderna’s Covid efforts, but also for the rest of the company’s sizable pipeline which is focused mostly on vaccines and therapies for rare diseases. The company has 21 programs underway, around 13 of which are in the clinical stage. Moderna’s Cytomegalovirus (CMV) vaccine, which is currently in phase 2 studies and could move to phase 3 in 2021, is likely to be the company’s first candidate for approval after its Covid-19 vaccine. (related: A Look At Moderna’s Pipeline Beyond The Covid Vaccine)
See our indicative theme of Covid-19 Vaccine stocks – which includes U.S.-listed pharma and biotech companies. The theme is up by about 540% year-to-date versus about 10% for the S&P 500.
[Updated 11/10/2020] What Does Pfizer’s Vaccine Readout Mean For Its Stock?
Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and its German partner BioNTech indicated that their Coronavirus vaccine, dubbed BNT162b2, was over 90% effective at preventing Covid-19 infections among volunteers, based on early data from phase 3 trials. The results are surprisingly strong, considering that the U.S. FDA had set a baseline efficacy of just 50% for the approval for Covid-19 vaccines. While there is a possibility that the efficacy rate of Pfizer’s vaccine could change as more data comes in, the numbers are no doubt encouraging. The companies are on track to file an emergency use application with the U.S. FDA later this month if pending data indicates that the vaccine is safe.  The companies intend to manufacture up to 50 million doses this year, and as much as 1.3 billion doses in 2021. Two shots of the vaccine will be required per person.
While Pfizer stock was up by almost 8% following the news, we think it’s unlikely that the vaccine will meaningfully move the needle for the company for multiple reasons. (Related: Are Covid Vaccine Stocks Worth Investing In?) For perspective, Pfizer has agreed to supply the U.S. government with the vaccine at about $19.50 per dose, and it’s possible that average prices could be well below this, considering that pricing might be lower in emerging markets. Also, vaccines traditionally have lower profitability versus prescription drugs. Combined with the large public interest in facilitating vaccine access, these margins may face even more downward pressure. Considering that the vaccine is co-developed with BioNTech, any profits will likely be shared.
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Competition is also likely to mount as there are likely to be several more successful vaccine candidates from other companies in the coming quarters. For example, clinical-stage biotech Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA), which also uses an mRNA-based technology like the Pfizer vaccine, is slated to report efficacy data in the coming weeks. (related: How Will The Covid-19 Vaccine Impact Moderna’s EPS?) Pfizer’s vaccine could also face logistical issues, considering that the vaccine needs to be stored at a temperature of minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, vaccines being developed by the likes of Oxford- AstraZeneca, Novavax NVAX , and others can be held at regular refrigerated temperatures. This could potentially limit the use of Pfizer’s vaccine to clinics and hospitals that have the appropriate storage facilities.
[Updated 11/4/2020] Covid-19 Vaccine stocks
Our indicative theme of Covid-19 Vaccine stocks – which includes a diverse set of U.S.-based pharma and biotech companies developing Covid vaccines – is up by about 560% year-to-date, on an equally weighted basis, compared to the S&P 500 which has gained just about 4% over the same period. While most vaccine stocks declined last week, amid a broader sell-off in the markets, they are likely to come back into the spotlight as efficacy data from late-stage trials is expected from frontrunners Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA) in the coming weeks. Below is a bit more on the companies in our theme of Coronavirus Vaccine stocks and their relative performance.
Novavax (NVAX), a vaccine development company, began late-stage trials of its Covid vaccine in the U.K in September, and large-scale phase 3 trials are due to begin in the U.S. and Mexico this month. While the company doesn’t have any other products on the market yet, its flu vaccine NanoFlu could be ready for potential FDA approval. The company has received about $1.6 billion in funding from the Federal government. The stock has soared 2,000% year-to-date.
Moderna (MRNA) , a clinical-stage biotech company, is carrying out phase 3 trials of its Covid-19 vaccine, completing enrollment of 30,000 participants. The company is likely to have data on whether its vaccine works or not by this month, and has noted that it would seek emergency approval from the FDA if the vaccine is at least 70% effective. The stock is up 253% this year.
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ): Unlike most other vaccine candidates, which are likely to require two shots, J&J is targeting a single-dose vaccine. While the company had to pause trials in mid-October after an illness was reported in a volunteer, the company is now preparing to resume trials. The stock is down by -5.1% this year.
Pfizer (PFE) is working with German partner BioNTech on a Covid-19 vaccine. The company is likely to have efficacy data from late-stage trials available shortly. The company could supply about 40 million doses in the United States in 2020 if the data is positive and regulators approve the vaccine. The stock is down by about -7.6% this year.
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