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Vaccine Hopes Rise Again: 4 Stocks to Watch

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The world is waiting with bated breath for the development of a vaccine to defeat the novel coronavirus. Although a number of biotech firms have been aggressively working toward developing a treatment for the deadly COVID-19, the FDA is yet to give approval to one. That said, Trump has urged U.S. states to get ready to distribute a potential COVID-19 vaccine by Nov 1, two days before the presidential election.

This has once again renewed hopes of a vaccine among millions. Biotech firms and drugmakers across the globe are pumping in millions of dollars to develop a vaccine to wipe out the deadly coronavirus, with many already ramping up production of their vaccine candidates in the hope of getting an approval.

Vaccine Tests in Last Lap

On Sep 2, the coronavirus vaccine being developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca started its phase 3 clinical trials in the United States. The vaccine is already undergoing phase-3 testing in several countries, including India, Brazil, England and South Africa. The company said trials were soon likely to start in Japan and Russia.

A number of other drugmakers too are in the phase 3 trial of their vaccine candidates. Some are even ramping up production of the vaccine, with the United States already having booked large amounts of vaccine doses from multiple companies. Moreover, the announcement from the CDC about vaccine distribution from Nov 1 definitely has lifted the morale of millions who have been impatiently waiting for a positive development.

Trump Secures Vaccine Doses

In July, Dr. Anthony Fauci, United States’ leading infectious diseases doctor, had said that the nation will get to know by the end of this year whether a coronavirus vaccine is safe and effective. He had also assured that a vaccine will be available as soon as the clinical trials are complete.

The United States is making sure that the nation has adequate doses of vaccine once it is developed. The Trump administration in recent weeks signed deals to acquire hundreds of millions of doses of potential COVID-19 vaccines from a large number of companies as part of its Operation Warp Speed program, which aims to deliver a vaccine in the country by the end of the year.

Last month, the United States entered into an agreement with Moderna, Inc. (MRNA - Free Report) to acquire 100 million doses of its potential COVID-19 vaccine for around $1.5 billion. Besides, it has also advanced purchase agreements with Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Free Report) , AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Inc. (PFE - Free Report) and BioNTech SE (BNTX - Free Report) , Sanofi (SNY - Free Report) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK - Free Report) for their respective vaccine candidates.

Stocks to Watch

Naturally, with drugmakers and biotech companies making remarkable progress in developing a vaccine over the past few months, hopes continue to rise. Here are some of the companies that are leading the race.

Moderna particularlyhas been in the spotlight over the past few months. The company’s vaccine candidate mRNA-1273 is a molecule that genetically encodes a set of instructions based on which cells make proteins and send them to various parts of the body.

The vaccine candidate is one of the first to have entered the final stage of trial and is on track to be completed by this month. Moderna’s shares have gained 66.5% in the past three months. The company carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Sanofi is working on two vaccine candidates for COVID-19. One candidate, to be manufactured on the back of an existing platform that develops vaccines to treat flu, will use an adjuvant made by GlaxoSmithKline to boost its efficacy. The other is being developed with U.S. company Translate Bio, which relies on a different technology known as mRNA. The first vaccine is already undergoing human-phase trial, while the second will soon enter clinical trials.

The company’s expected earnings growth rate for the current year is 5.7%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings has improved 4.5% over the past 60 days. Sanofi has a Zacks Rank #3.

Gilead Sciences, Inc. (GILD - Free Report)  has already received an emergency-use authorization from the FDA based on preliminary results from two clinical trials: one conducted by the NIAID and one by Gilead. The company’s expected earnings growth rate for next year is 4.8%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings has improved 4.7% over the past 60 days. Gilead has a Zacks Rank #3.

Amgen, Inc. (AMGN - Free Report) , one of the biggest biotech companies in the world, collaborated with Adaptive, Inc. in April to work on antibodies that can be used to prevent or treat COVID-19.  Amgen also plans to test Otezla as a COVID-19 therapy treating respiratory distress in late-stage patients in the coming days.

Amgen’s expected earnings growth rate for the current year is 5.5%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings has improved 0.8% over the past 60 days.

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