Diversification Key In Investing in Vaccine Race: Expert

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Most vaccines take a decade or longer to come to market. But when the novel coronavirus emerged this year, the global race was on to find a vaccine. Here in the US, the shortened timetable for vaccine development was set by Operation Warp Speed, a $10 billion collaboration between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Biomedical Advanced Research Development Authority, and the U.S. Department of Defense. 

Private-sector initiatives are also underway, but knowing when a coronavirus vaccine will be ready for market is difficult. At a recent webinar hosted by TheStreet, a panel including Dr. Peter Maric of O2 Industries, Real Money's Bob Lang and TheStreet's Katherine Ross discussed the state of the vaccine race and which companies stand to benefit. 

Currently there are more than 100 vaccines under development globally, according to the World Health Organization. At least 17 vaccines are already in clinical trials. Russia claims to have a vaccine, but it has not been peer reviewed and China is pushing one as well. In the West, the U.K., Canada and the United States have had encouraging news in early trials. But Dr. Peter Maric warned it is early days and it is a complicated process. “At first, we're mostly looking at safety, and efficacy is actually where we're at-- the stage three of that clinical trial…We don't yet have that data. We're all very excited about the possibility of it," Maric said. 

According to reporting from Katherine Ross, companies will be searching for an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in about mid-November, to possibly early January.

And companies are not all fighting against each other but coming together to fight the virus. Ross added, “Back in late September, we saw all these huge vaccine makers come together and say that they took a pledge that they wouldn't be pushing out a vaccine until it's fully safe. So it's not uncommon to see one big company team up with the other one, just to ensure that they can put the best minds that they have together and get us a safe vaccine.”

Given the fact that so many are working to find a vaccine, it can be challenging for investors to know where to go. Lang acknowledged that investors have an opportunity to diversify in the many companies in this space. “Merck  (MRK) - Get Report, Pfizer  (PFE) - Get Report, AstraZeneca  (AZN) - Get Report, I think that that's a place where investors need to be," Lang said. “Some of the better opportunities that we've seen lately are names like Regeneron  (REGN) - Get Report, also some smaller names like, Moderna  (MRNA) - Get Report or Novavax  (NVAX) - Get Report is another one which has secured quite a bit of funding from the government. Johnson & Johnson  (JNJ) - Get Report and GlaxoSmithKline  (GSK) - Get Report  are also in the mix."

Lang likened the effort to find a coronavirus vaccine to the “Manhattan Project." “Everybody is putting it together to try and get a vaccine as soon as they possibly can,” Lang said. 

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