The United States continues to be at the top stop with the highest number of coronavirus cases, followed by Brazil and India. The world’s largest economy has already seen more than 6 million coronavirus cases, with a death toll of at least 184,000. In such a scenario, all eyes are on vaccine development to combat the pandemic. Taking hopes higher, AstraZeneca plc (AZN - Free Report) recently announced the beginning of a late-stage study in the United States on its coronavirus vaccine candidate, AZD1222, which it is developing in partnership with Oxford University.
The phase III study will comprise 30,000 adult participants. The study will evaluate the safety, efficacy and immunogenicity of AZD1222 across all adult age groups and various racial, ethnic and geographic populations. The study is funded by Biomedical Advanced Development Authority (BARDA) and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The study participants will be provided with two doses of either AZD1222 or a saline control, four weeks apart.
Notably, the company announced positive data from the phase I/II study on AZD1222 in July. The data showed that this vaccine candidate generated strong antibody and T-cell responses in majority of patients. Going on, AstraZeneca’s potential vaccine candidate, AZD1222, is also being evaluated in late-stage studies in the U.K., Brazil and South Africa with studies due to start in Japan and Russia shortly. Data from the late-stage studies are expected later this year.
AstraZeneca has also entered into several supply deals with various countries under which it has committed to supply almost 3 billion doses of the vaccine, on successful development.
Other Vaccine Candidates Not Far Behind
According to the World Health Organization, around 170 coronavirus vaccines are in development globally, with 33 candidates reaching the clinical trials (per The Wall Street Journal article). Moving ahead, Moderna (MRNA), which is developing this vaccine in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has begun the Phase 3 clinical trial, encompassing 30,000 healthy participants at around 100 research sites in the United States.
The participants in the trial will be given either two 100 microgram doses of the vaccine or a placebo in a gap of around 28 days. Moreover, participants and investigators will not be informed about who has received the vaccine. Notably, the company has again announced encouraging study data relating to its potential coronavirus vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273. Per the latest data from an early stage clinical trial, its experimental coronavirus vaccine is successfully producing neutralizing antibodies and T-cells in older adults similar to those observed in younger participants.
Moderna experimented its vaccine on 10 adults between the ages of 56 and 70 and 10 elderly adults aged 71 and older, according to a CNBC article. Each participant was administered two 100 microgram doses of the vaccine 28 days apart.
Pfizer (PFE) in collaboration with German biotech firm BioNTech has also started its late-stage study on a coronavirus vaccine. The trial comprises around 30,000 participants and will be conducted at nearly 120 sites globally. Pfizer officials are expecting to receive regulatory authorization by October. Moreover, two out of four of the company’s coronavirus vaccine candidates, BNT162b1 and BNT162b2, have been granted the ‘fast track’ designation by the FDA. The fast-track status will speed up the review process of the vaccines.
Also, recently, VBI Vaccines Inc. (VBIV) informed that it has selected two pre-clinical candidates as coronavirus vaccine for clinical-stage development. The selection was based on encouraging data from three pre-clinical mouse studies, which evaluated one dose of the candidates. These studies were undertaken especially to allow selection of optimized clinical candidates for the company’s coronavirus program, VBI-2900.
ETFs to Gain
The race to introduce vaccine and treatment for coronavirus is opening up opportunities, making the biotech sector a prospective space for investments. Therefore, we discuss a few ETFs that provide exposure to the biotech sector:
iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB - Free Report)
This fund seeks to provide exposure to U.S. biotechnology and pharmaceutical stocks and tracks the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index. Holding 207 securities, the fund has an AUM of $9.43 billion with an expense ratio of 0.46% (read: Moderna ETFs to Gain on New Positive COVID-19 Vaccine Data).
SPDR S&P Biotech ETF (XBI - Free Report)
The fund seeks daily investment results, before fees and expenses, which match the S&P Biotechnology Select Industry Index. It holds about 133 securities in its basket. It has AUM of $5.53 billion and an expense ratio of 0.35% (read: Beat the Fed Minutes Blues With These ETF Areas).
First Trust NYSE Arca Biotechnology ETF (FBT - Free Report)
The fund measures the performance of a cross section of companies in the biotechnology industry that are primarily involved in the use of biological processes to develop products or provide services. It holds about 31 securities in its basket. Its AUM is around $2.01 billion (read: Red Hot ETF Areas Amid the Coronavirus Crisis).
ARK Genomic Revolution ETF (ARKG - Free Report)
This is an actively-managed fund. Companies within ARKG are focused on and are expected to substantially benefit from extending and enhancing the quality of human and other life by incorporating technological and scientific developments and advancements in genomics into their business. It generally holds about 30-50 securities in its basket. It has AUM of $2.13 billion and an expense ratio of 0.75% (read: 5 Sector ETFs That Have Gained More Than 50% This Year).
VanEck Vectors Biotech ETF (BBH - Free Report)
The underlying MVIS US Listed Biotech 25 Index tracks the overall performance of companies involved in the development and production, marketing and sales of drugs based on genetic analysis and diagnostic equipment. It holds about 24 securities in its basket. Its AUM is $496.2 million and it has an expense ratio of 0.35%.
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