Is PPE an Investing Opportunity Amid Race to Vaccine?

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As the world remains gripped by the coronavirus, scientists, drugmakers and governments are in an unprecedented race to develop a vaccine. Recent results have spurred optimism that several vaccines look promising but, challenges remain. 

At a recent sponsored webinar hosted by TheStreet, Dr. Peter Maric of O2 Industries and TheStreet's Katherine Ross and Bob Lang, discussed the worldwide race to a vaccine and its impact for those investing in vaccines and PPE. The discussion began with Dr. Maric providing background knowledge into how vaccines actually work.

“The term vaccine actually derives its name from the Latin word for cow," Maric said. “There was an English physician by the name of Edward Jenner that noticed that milk maids who were working on milking cows didn't seem to develop or have severe symptoms of smallpox. And he thought it may be due to the fact that they were contracting the disease called cowpox that gave them immunity or cross immunity to getting smallpox as a result." 

Maric added, “That theory was then tested on a 13-year-old boy at the time, by taking some of the infected material from someone who had cowpox and the boy, did not develop smallpox as a result.” The idea is to introduce the body to a small amount of virus so it can learn to react against the thing you are trying to fight against.

Currently there are more than a hundred Coronavirus vaccines under development globally, according to the World Health Organization, and at least seventeen vaccines already in clinical trials. But already, some companies have faced setbacks.

British pharma giant AstraZeneca  (AZN) - Get Report, one of the most hopeful vaccine makers halted phase 3 trials of its vaccine last month due to an unexpected side effect in one of the trial participants. Johnson & Johnson  (JNJ) - Get Report also halted trials for an unexplained illness. And Pfizer  (PFE) - Get Report had hoped to finish phase three testing by October, but said recently, it is not going to meet that timeline. Other names like Moderna  (MRNA) - Get Report, GlaxoSmithkline  (GSK) - Get Report and Regeneron  (REGN) - Get Report are also creating vaccines or therapeutics. Given so much uncertainty as to which company will emerge a winner, Bob Lang advised investors should diversify.

“I actually think that if you can put a little bit of money into each and every one of these plays because.. everyone every one of these companies is going to come up with something that is going to help in terms of a vaccine, whether it's the actually finding the one that it's going to work 100% or close to 100% or if they're going to be contributing in making and processing the vaccines for the rest the world.”

And Katherine Ross told us that from her reporting, investors should not overlook the government’s role in funding the search for a vaccine and whether or not, PPE companies are still worth a look.

"We're talking about the vaccines right now. Obviously, there's a lot of focus on that as people were really hoping to return to life before COVID or back to normal as some people say. But the reality is really, that even with the vaccine, PPE will be around won't go away anytime soon,” Ross said.

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