Never in the history of this world have so many people wanted to be pricked by a needle as bad as they do now. This post takes a quick look at the vaccine development process, where we are with COVID-19 vaccine and who the lead contenders are.
There are typically 5 phases in the development and monitoring of a vaccine. And you can get a quick summary of those phases in the infographics below.
We have about 213 different COVID-19 vaccine candidates under development, 37 of which are in clinical trials and just 10 are in phase 3 right now. Half of those are being developed in China and Russia. Safe to say that these will be met with ample scepticism. But there are 4 COVID-19 vaccine candidates being developed by western pharmaceutical companies that are near the finish line. Here is a look.
Top 4 COVID-19 Vaccine Candidates
BNT162b2 – In a joint development with BioNtech & Pfizer
BNT162b2 is clearly in the lead with its phase 3 clinical trials. Over 40,000 people have had 2 doses of either the vaccine or a placebo. Once a certain number of those people contract the virus, an independent data monitoring committee will review the numbers to check if the vaccine is effective against the virus. We will know this by mid-November. Best case scenario for humankind – their vaccine could be the only candidate to get authorisation from the US FDA by the end of the year. The US government has signed a contract securing 100 million doses of this vaccine if it is successful for $1.9Bn. The European Union has signed a contract to secure 200 million doses. No word from the Indian government yet. The vaccine will be manufactured in Pfizer’s facilities in US, Belgium, and BioNtech’s facility in Germany.
mRNA-1273 – In development with Moderna
mRNA-1273 isn’t too far behind and could be the second one to get approvals. Phase 3 clinical trials are underway and the company is waiting for its results. Moderna has also signed a contract worth $1.5Bn with the US government to produce 100 million doses. The company is in the meantime manufacturing hundreds of thousands of doses of the vaccine at risk to start supplying in case they get FDA approval.
AZD1222 – In development with AstraZeneca/Oxford university
AZD1222 – Currently in joint development with AstraZeneca and Oxford university, their phase 3 clinical trial was put on hold on the 6th of September when one individual involved in their clinical studies experienced unexplained illness. Last week however, the US FDA authorised the resumption of the study.
JNJ-78436735 – In development at Johnson and Johnson
JNJ-78436735 was also put on hold in mid-October when one patient involved in the trials went through a serious medical event (stroke). But no clear cause was identified and hence the vaccine will now enter phase 3 trials.
Bharath Biotech - In development at home
At home, Bharath biotech, Indian council of medical research ICMR, and the National Institute of virology have tagged together to develop a vaccine that received approval to kick off Phase 3 clinical trials. Over 28,500 people will be involved in this study which is due to start soon.
Given that the stakes are really high, market pundits are watching quite keenly on the developments. Indian investors looking to get exposure to the equity of some of these companies can consider direct investments on these stocks or indirectly through a mutual fund that holds positions in them. At this time, there is only 1 healthcare mutual fund that does that. But the risks are very high and it is not for the faint-hearted.
Read up about the different kinds of mutual funds and who they are meant for before you invest in one.