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Here is the coronavirus vaccine maker most likely to overtake Pfizer and Moderna




We have seen in the last 11 days that Pfizer and Modern are, without a doubt, the undisputed leaders in the coronavirus vaccine race. Last week, Pfizer and its partner BioNTechannounced excellent efficacy results for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate BNT162b2. Earlier this week, Moderna tracked her own fantastic efficacy results for the experimental coronavirus vaccine mRNA-1273.

These companies are on track to apply for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in the United States in the near future. And their chances of winning the EUA look pretty good. BNT162b2 and mRNA-1273 could become available to the first wave of Americans by the end of the year.

While Pfizer and Moderna are the leaders now, that doesn’t mean they’ll hold the position indefinitely. Here is which coronavirus vaccine maker is most likely to blow up these two drugmakers.

Gloved hand picking up a vial of COVID-19 vaccine from a row of identical vials.

Image source: Getty Images.

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Two companies closely follow Pfizer and Moderna. AstraZeneca (NASDAQ: AZN) andJohnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) are also evaluating coronavirus vaccine candidates in advanced stage testing in the United States

AstraZeneca plans to announce its advanced results by the end of 2020. The big drugmaker likely could have reported the results even earlier, but its US study was delayed a few weeks after a study participant British company on its COVID-19 vaccine has experienced unexplained illness. AstraZeneca’s US clinical trial has since resumed.

Johnson & Johnson has also been on a temporary hiatus for its advanced stage coronavirus vaccine study due to a potential safety concern. However, an investigation determined that the problem was not related to J & J’s experimental vaccine, and the study moved forward. J&J has not indicated when it plans to announce the first results of its late-stage study, although in early 2021 seems likely.

The excellent efficiency results from Pfizer and Moderna could bode well for AstraZeneca and J&J. Experimental vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna use modified messenger RNA (mRNA) to instruct ribosomes in cells to produce proteins that reflect the spike protein on the surface of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. AstraZeneca and J&J take a different approach, in which adenoviruses (which are a major cause of the common cold) provide DNA containing instructions to build a copy of the coronavirus spike protein.

In theory, at least, the adenoviral DNA approach could offer similar efficiency to the mRNA approach used by Pfizer and Moderna. However, it is too early to know if this will be the case. J&J said it models 70% efficiency, but believes the actual level may be higher.

A big point of friction

Which of these coronavirus vaccine makers is most likely to pass Pfizer and Moderna? I would go with Johnson & Johnson.

The COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca have at least one common denominator: They all require two doses. To be fully immunized, individuals must receive the first dose and then receive a second dose several weeks later. J & J’s coronavirus vaccine candidate, however, only requires a single dose.

This could give J&J a significant competitive advantage over its rivals. A single dose vaccine would have a lower cost than a two dose regimen. People would also be more likely to want a vaccine that they would only need to take once.

Johnson & Johnson will also not have the ultra-cold storage requirements of Pfizer’s vaccine. Its COVID-19 vaccine can remain stable for up to two years at about minus four degrees Fahrenheit and up to three months at temperatures between about 35 degrees and 46 degrees Fahrenheit.

In addition, J&J beats Moderna in terms of production capacity. Moderna said it would be able to produce around 500 million doses of mRNA-1273 next year, although biotech says it could “eventually” increase to 1 billion doses. J&J is on track to produce over a billion doses per year.

One thing not to overlook

I really do think it’s possible that Johnson & Johnson could be more successful with their coronavirus vaccine than Pfizer and Moderna with their vaccines. However, note that I never said that the large health care supply would outperform either of these other two drug stocks.

My hunch is that the biggest winner of the three in terms of stock market performance will be Moderna. Why? It is the smallest of the group. It takes more to get things done for giant companies like Pfizer and J&J than for relatively smaller biotechs like Moderna. The best-performing coronavirus vaccine maker on one front may not (and probably won’t be) the best-performing on another front.

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