The Frontrunners for a COVID-19 Treatment and Vaccine
Over 100 drugs are in testing in the race to treat coronavirus. Experts predict it could take between 12-18 months before a vaccine is widely available. In comparison, it took five years to create an Ebola vaccine, which was considered a modern science miracle. It’s not uncommon for new vaccines to take 10 to 15 years to develop. It’s important to note that timeline of 12-18 months assumes the first few vaccines that enter the development phase will be successful. On average, only one in 10 experimental vaccines reach FDA approval status. The two frontrunners in the race to combat the novel coronavirus are Gilead and Moderna.
Gilead: Currently conducting late-stage clinical studies evaluating remdesivir in treating COVID-19.
What to watch: Almost immediately after filing for and being granted orphan drug status for its potential treatment, Gilead rescinded its request. The move brings into question the role of the government in creating access to new therapies and providing financial assistance. Separately, Gilead is a massive, well-established manufacturer that has maintained a pretty attractive dividend (approximately a 3.7% yield). Because it’s in a strong position financially, that could impact its chances of success.
Moderna: Delivered the first COVID-19 vaccine into human volunteers during the week of March 16. It predicts making the vaccine available to healthcare workers as early as fall 2020.
What to watch: The FDA would only have initial data on the vaccine’s safety and ability to produce antibodies to the virus, meaning there most likely wouldn’t be direct evidence it protected against COVID-19. In addition, Moderna is a small biotech who is competing with other major pharmaceutical companies that are several times larger. Nevertheless, the biotech is the only company who has made it to the trial phase with its potential vaccine.