Top Seven Biotech Stock Gains in 2020 Linked to COVID-19

These Seven Publicly-Traded Companies in the BioHealth Capital Region Have Delivered Substantial Growth in Stock Value Since WHO’s Public Health Emergency of International Concern Declaration

July 7, 2020

Life science companies have stepped up across the Biohealth Capital Region to do their part in the fight against COVID-19. Whether these organizations have been developing SARS-COv-2 tests, refocusing their vast expertise on developing potential vaccine candidates or joining forces to ramp up manufacturing capabilities, the BHCR’s rapid response to this public health crisis has been nothing short of extraordinary.

Just today it was announced that the U.S. Will Pay $1.6B to Novavax for Coronavirus Vaccine, making it the largest deal to date with the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed. Read more on Novavax below.

COVID-19 has dramatically disrupted many industries to varying degrees of severity. In some ways, the biotech industry has been sheltered from the worst financial impacts of the pandemic. There have been logistical and supply chain challenges because of the pandemic, for certain, but many of BHCR biotechs have seen a positive impact on their stock value. This is especially true for those life science companies that successfully leveraged their technologies and rapidly pivoted to help in the fight against COVID-19. 

The results of this regional effort against the pandemic are yet to be determined. Come the late fall of 2020 or early 2021, a few of the region’s publicly-traded life science companies could produce a viable vaccine, which would certainly benefit the public good while also enhancing the value of the company or companies that develop and commercialize it. 

The BioBuzz team did a little digging and has produced the following breakdown of pre and post COVID-19 stock values for some well-known, publicly-traded BHCR companies. 

Top Seven Biotech Stock Gains Linked to COVID-19 Programs

Here are the top seven companies with publicly known COVID-19 projects that have seen the greatest stock gains since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the pandemic a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on January 30, 2020.

Note: Each company’s pre-COVID-19 stock price was recorded on the date of January 29 2020, the day before the WHO officially declared COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). We understand that COVID-19’s actual arrival in the U.S. is debatable. The post-declaration stock value was pulled at approximately 10 am on July 7, 2020.

#7 AstraZeneca (AZN:NYSE)

8.4% Increase

Stock price rose from
$49.66 USD to $53.83 USD

BHCR anchor company AstraZeneca (AZ) is actively pursuing a COVID-19 vaccine candidate with the support of a $413.2M DHHS/BARDA contract, according to USA Today

AZ landed on the #16 spot on USA Today’s recent story detailing the 30 largest COVID-19 contracts awarded by the federal government.  

And more recently, DHHS pledged up to $1.2B in funding support for AZ for 300M doses of its vaccine candidate AZD1222 to be delivered as early as October 2020. AZD1222 was developed by the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and licensed to AZ. This funding is also part of the government’s Operation Warp Speed and will support the acceleration of AZD1222’s Phase 3 clinical trials that will include up to 30,000 patients. 

AZ and Emergent Biosolutions recently announced a partnership to manufacturer AZ’s vaccine candidate, which is valued at approximately $87M.

#6 Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc. (TMO:NYSE)

15% Increase

Stock price rose from $333.89 USD to $383.32 USD

Shortly after the WHO declared COVID-19 a PHEIC, global life science giant Thermo Fisher Scientific, which has several locations across the BHCR, acquired Qiagen, which also has a location in Maryland, for $11.5B. Thermo Fisher Scientific’s acquisition of Qiagen expanded its capabilities to better address emerging healthcare threats. 

Thermo Fisher Scientific, like Emergent BioSolutions, has been very active on the COVID-19 front since early on; the company also secured a spot on USA Today’s list of companies receiving large federal COVID-19 contracts. 

The company received FDA EUA approval for its COVID-19 test in mid-March. The test, which is based on Applied Biosystems TaqPath Assay technology, is being used by CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) high-complexity laboratories in the U.S. to detect nucleic acid from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The test produces results in four hours. The company has been a leading force behind the development of and deployment of COVID-19 diagnostic tests.

The company’s acquisition of Qiagen and its positive contributions to the fight against COVID-19 have been contributing factors to its stock value bump of about 15%.

#5 Gilead Sciences/Kite Pharma, a Gilead Company (GILD:NASDAQ)

19% Increase

Stock price rose from
$64.30 USD to $76.56 USD

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) just recently announced that it had purchased about 90% of Gilead’s Remdesivir supply for July, August, and September 2020. While there is much ongoing debate about this move by the U.S. government, it’s undeniable that Gilead’s Remdesivir is seen as having great potential to shorten hospital stays for those suffering from more severe cases of COVID-19.

On February 25th, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced a clinical trial of Remdesivir, developed by Gilead Sciences. At the time, this trial was the first of its kind to test an experimental treatment for COVID-19 in the U.S. The trial regulatory sponsor is the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is part of the NIH. Remdesivir had been previously tested in humans as a treatment for EBOLA and had shown promise after being tested in animal models as a possible treatment for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS. 

Gilead reported promising phase 3 Remdesivir clinical trial data for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Remdesivir is approved in Japan for use in the treatment of COVID-19 but remains an investigational drug under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) FDA status in the U.S..

Kite Pharma, which is currently building a cell therapy manufacturing facility in Urbana, Maryland, was acquired by Gilead for $11.9B and has been a hiring force in the BHCR since announcing the new site in April 2019.

The company’s stock value has seen a 19% bump and Gilead’s Remdesivir has helped to improve outcomes for many COVID-19 patients. With Kite’s new CAR-T facility coming online soon, and Remdesivir playing a critical role in the response to COVID-19, the latter portion of 2020 for both Gilead and Kite Pharma will be interesting to watch.

#4 Qiagen (QGEN:NYSE)

26.4% Increase

Stock price rose from
$34.27 to $43.31

In March of 2020, Thermo Fisher Scientific acquired Qiagen for $11.2B. Qiagen, which has a location in Germantown, Maryland, ramped up its manufacturing of sample processing kits for COVID-19 and added the new coronavirus to its infectious disease test panel. With a large, global operations network, Qiagen was and is uniquely positioned to rapidly respond to COVID-19 diagnostic needs across the world. 

Early on in the fight against COVID-19 in February, Qiagen sent its QIAstat-Dx Respiratory Panel 2019-nCoV test kit to four hospitals in China for testing. This panel is able to identify SARS-CoV-2 from other respiratory illnesses. Since then, Qiagen has shipped its panel to Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. The company began shipping its QIAstat-Dx Respiratory Panel 2019-nCoV test to the U.S. in late March and received FDA EUA approval on March 31, 2020. The panel was the first syndromic testing solution deployed during the pandemic and produces results typically within one hour. 

In addition, the company has been providing instruments and consumables to countries around the world to aid in the fight against COVID-19. Qiagen is also at the forefront of providing labs with laboratory-developed tests (LDTs), mid and high-throughput automation and two new real-time RT-PCR (real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) tests deployed for research into COVID-19.  

Qiagen’s ability to scale up rapidly has made significant contributions to coronavirus testing capacity and has empowered clinicians across the globe to better combat COVID-19. This capability also made it an attractive asset for global life science juggernaut Thermo Fisher Scientific to add to its already expansive capabilities. Qiagen, which is still traded separately from Thermo Fisher, has seen its stock rise 26.4% since the WHO’s PHEIC declaration.

#3 Emergent BioSolutions (EBS:NYSE)  

56.6% Increase

Stock price rose from
$56.22 USD to $88.06 USD

Emergent BioSolutions has been all over the news regarding COVID-19-related contracts and partnerships since the discovery of COVID-19. The company is headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland and has several manufacturing sites in Baltimore, including its Emergent Bayview facility, which is designated as a Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (CIADM) by BARDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Emergent BioSolutions recently appeared on USA Today’s list of companies receiving the largest COVID-19 government contracts. In mid-June, the company announced a manufacturing partnership with AstraZeneca to produce its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, valued at approximately $87M. 

In late April of this year, Emergent BioSolutions announced a partnership with Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to provide contract development and manufacturing services to support J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine efforts. The company also signed two contract agreements with Novavax, one to manufacture Novavax’s NanoFlu™ and the other to support Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate

It’s been an impressive run for Emergent BioSolutions, resulting in a stock value bump of nearly 57%.

#2 Altimmune (ALT:NASDAQ)

503% Increase

Stock price rose from
$1.82 USD to $10.98 USD

Altimmune, located in Gaithersburg, Maryland, is one of several compelling and intriguing pre and post COVID-19 stories from the BHCR. In May 2018, the company was on the verge of being delisted from the Nasdaq. The company also suffered through a 98% decrease in stock value over a three year span, according to Yahoo news. 

Altimmune saw an opportunity to leverage its expertise for the public good and pivoted its efforts to developing its own COVID-19 vaccine. The company became only the second BHRC company to advance its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Altimmune has advanced a potential single-dose, recombinant intranasal vaccine using its proprietary technology. Altimmune received FDA approval to move its T- COVID vaccine candidate into clinical trials on June 1, 2020, and the company projects data being available by Q4 2020. 

While it’s overall stock value remains modest at a shade under $11, Altimmune is a remarkable BHCR comeback story with a stock value increase of 506%. 

#1 Novavax, Inc. (NVAX:NASDAQ)

1,368% Increase

Stock price rose from
$6.84 USD to $100.46 USD

Novavax was by far the top performer in this category, solidifying its spot even more in the past few days with a recent 40% jump due to the announcement that the U.S. will pay $1.6B to Novavax for coronavirus vaccine, as part of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed.

In February 2019, Novavax suffered a disappointment with the failure of its ResVax vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is a respiratory disease that impacts newborns. Like Altimmune, Novavax was warned that it could be delisted by Nasdaq in April 2019. 

Novavax’s comeback has been nothing less than remarkable. 

The turnaround began with a strategic partnership with Catalent’s Paragon Bioservices announced in June 2019 and has accelerated with its work on COVID-19. Novavax has a deep history in vaccine development, including developing a vaccine for H1N1 in just 11 weeks, announcing the breakthrough just a few months after the emergence of the swine flu. The company has a rich history of combating novel infectious diseases, including the Ebola virus. Novavax is also developing NanoFlu, a nanoparticle, quadrivalent flu vaccine for adults over 65. 

Pivoting to help in the fight against COVID-19 was a natural fit. 

Novavax was the first BHCR company to announce progress on a COVID-19 vaccine candidate on February 26th, 2020. By May 2020, its NVX‑CoV2373 vaccine candidate had moved into phase I/2 clinical trials. The company received a $60M Department of Defense (DOD) contract to support development of the vaccine and the manufacturing of 10M doses for possible use in a phase 2/3 clinical trial. Data from Novavax’s phase 1/2 trial is expected this month.

Momentum is clearly building at Novavax, as is evidenced by its recent partnership with Emergent Biosolutions and new executive leadership hires like adding David Mott, the former President, Chief Executive Officer, and Vice Chairman of MedImmune from 2000 through 2008, during which the company was acquired by AstraZeneca for $15.6 billion. 

Novavax is a remarkable comeback story, indeed, transforming from a company on the verge of being delisted by Nasdaq to an organization at the forefront of COVID-19 innovation with a stock value increase of nearly 1,400%.

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Steven Surdez

Steven Surdez

Principal at StoryCore
Steve has over 20 years experience in copywriting, developing brand messaging and creating marketing strategies across a wide range of industries, including the biopharmaceutical, senior living, commercial real estate, IT and renewable energy sectors, among others. He is currently the Principal/Owner of StoryCore, a Frederick, Maryland-based content creation and execution consultancy focused on telling the unique stories of Maryland organizations.

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