While nowhere as severe as the Covid-19 outbreak, the spread of monkeypox infections across more than 70 countries in just a few months has prompted the World Health Organization to declare it as a global emergency. This pronouncement may give the trade an extra tailwind.
“At the moment, the world is relying on one manufacturer, Bavarian Nordic, for the monkeypox vaccine,” said Manish Bhargava, a fund manager at Straits Investment Holdings Pte in Singapore. “To keep up with demand, we can expect other biotech firms to ramp up research and production. It’s starting to reflect in the strong stock price performance for the sector.”
Here are some sectors and companies that have been active:
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Vaccines and Antivirals
Shares of Bavarian Nordic have more than tripled from a low in May after governments began ordering the Danish company’s monkeypox vaccine -- the only one approved specifically to ward off the infection. The firm has raised its revenue guidance several times this year.
Analysts are taking note, with Citigroup Inc. increasing its target price for the company’s stock by 20% and flagging that there may be further upside if more orders come through.
Shares of other companies making vaccines or antivirals for monkeypox have also caught the attention of US retail traders. The stock of Siga Technologies, which manufactures a treatment called Tpoxx, has doubled this year. The therapy is approved to treat smallpox in the US, and monkeypox and other viruses in the European Union and the UK.
Chimerix Inc.’s Tembexa is a countermeasure that is used to treat smallpox, and the firm said in May it would sell the drug to Emergent BioSolutions Inc. On the vaccine side, Emergent’s ACAM2000 is a smallpox vaccine that can be utilized in some cases against monkeypox.
Siga, Chimerix and Emergent are the “key beneficiaries” of the WHO’s declaration that the monkeypox outbreak is a global emergency, according to Cowen Inc. analyst Boris Peaker.
“With increased resources allocated to contact tracing and testing in EU and US, we anticipate the case count to rise significantly over the next few months, potentially leading to more procurement of countermeasures,” Peaker wrote in a note.
Japan has also started studying smallpox vaccines as a way to prevent the spread of the outbreak, and this may ignite interest in Meiji Holdings Co. as its unit KM Biologics produces a smallpox vaccine. Meiji Holdings has jumped 12% from June low.
The Asian nation has a stockpile of smallpox vaccines but the amount has not been disclosed while preparations for administration of Tpoxx are progressing, Citigroup analyst Hidemaru Yamaguchi wrote in a note.
Companies that provide virus testing kits and tools are also in focus.
In Japan, shares of Precision System, which makes medical testing equipment, have almost doubled since late June. Switzerland’s Roche said in May it had developed three test kits to help scientists trace monkeypox.
More than 30 companies in China have obtained EU certification for their monkeypox virus detection products, Jefferies Financial Group Inc. analysts including Christopher Lui wrote in a July 25 note. These include early movers such as Autobio Diagnostics Co., Shanghai ZJ Bio-Tech Co. and Daan Gene Co. Shanghai ZJ has climbed almost 40% in July.Makers of antigen and antibody test kits such as Zhejiang Orient Gene Biotech Co. and Assure Tech (Hangzhou) Co. are the other potential beneficiaries.