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It might be too early to call it "a light at the end of the tunnel," but the quest for a novel coronavirus vaccine has entered a new, perhaps decisive phase.
We knew fairly quickly after the pandemic exploded that life in most places could never be as it was until an effective vaccine or therapy was produced.
And now we're beginning to get a picture – tentative, to be sure – of when and how that might happen.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he expects FDA emergency approval of some kind of vaccine by November or December of this year.
Taking it a step further, both Bill Gates and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield have indicated the logistics of vaccine distribution will mean life "will start to return to normal" by second and third quarters of 2021, or roughly 18 months after the social and economic devastation of this crisis started.
That seems like an awfully long time, and of course it is, but, as of now, the current "speed record" holder in the vaccine stakes belongs to Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK)'s Mumpsvax.
And when I say "speed record," understand that it took nearly five years to develop Mumpsvax back in the 1960s.
For us to have an effective vaccine – any vaccine – by the end of 2020, or a little over a year since the disease emerged, would be a breathtaking, unparalleled scientific achievement.
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There are dozens upon dozens of different vaccines and therapies being researched all over the world, all in different stages. The market, however, is paying the closest attention to just a few.
Aside from AstraZeneca Plc. (NYSE: AZN) in the United Kingdom, there are two frontrunner candidates in the United States, both in late, phase 3 clinical trials.
There's Moderna Inc. (NASDAQ: MRNA), whose shares have soared as high as 400%, and Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE), which has been rather more subdued this year, but whose vaccine candidate is a favorite in some circles for the first emergency approval.
With that said, the stock I'm going to name might not be first, but it may very well be the best…
No Need to Win – It Just Needs to Reach the Finish Line
Now, as I said, some quoted in the media are handicapping the vaccine race and predicting Pfizer will be first past the post.
That may very well be the case, but I like BioNTech SE ADR (NASDAQ: BNTX) as the company that stands to gain the most from the race.
Based in Mainz, Germany, BioNTech is half the size of Moderna, and just one-twelfth the size of Pfizer. Like Moderna, BioNTech is pursuing a brand-new kind of vaccine – the mRNA vaccine.
Short for messenger RNA, it's truly next-generation technology. Here's what you need to know about it.
This is vastly oversimplified, but mRNA is the molecule that puts DNA instructions into action. In the novel coronavirus itself, the virus's mRNA contains "instructions" for the host cells to begin the process of the virus's replication – often making the host sick in the process.
By turns, that compels the body's immune system to recognize it's under attack and generate antibodies to fight the virus. If your immune system eventually wins, you can get better, though that doesn't take into account the damage a virus may do to the body itself, or the potential for an overzealous immune response to kill or injure a patient.
A mRNA vaccine, in theory, "tricks" the patient's body into replicating certain viral proteins, but without exposure to the virus itself. That generates an immune response that's literally tailor-made to protect the recipient from coronavirus.
MRNA represents the next step up from current live and attenuated virus vaccine methods.
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It's also never been successfully implemented though, admittedly, the stakes – modern life itself – have never been this high.
Now, even if Moderna's mRNA vaccine works, it'll be great news for BioNTech, because it will be the ultimate, final proof of concept. It will validate the approach and, down the line, may lead to other mRNA vaccines against other dreaded diseases.
As a small stock, BioNTech stands to gain more from sales of its vaccine. It will "move the needle" much more so than Pfizer or Moderna.
That suggests the profit potential, if the mRNA vaccines succeed (and they don't have to be first, mind), for the stock to go at least as high as its old $105 high, and likely much further.
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About the Author
D.R. Barton, Jr., Technical Trading Specialist for Money Map Press, is a world-renowned authority on technical trading with 25 years of experience. He spent the first part of his career as a chemical engineer with DuPont. During this time, he researched and developed the trading secrets that led to his first successful research service. Thanks to the wealth he was able to create for himself and his followers, D.R. retired early to pursue his passion for investing and showing fellow investors how to build toward financial freedom.