Biotech ETFs to Shine on Pfizer's Coronavirus Vaccine Progress

The coronavirus outbreak continues to aggravate as the total number of cases have risen to more than 13.1 million. The United States has started shutting down of economic activities and stricter social-distancing measures as the new cases of the disease has risen to 60,000 a day, per a CNN report. In such a scenario, the latest positive update on coronavirus vaccines made by Pfizer PFE in collaboration with German biotech firm BioNTech seems encouraging. Also, shares of Pfizer rose around 4.1% on release of the positive data on Jul 13.

Two out of four of the company’s coronavirus vaccine candidates, BNT162b1 and BNT162b2, have been granted the ‘fast track’ designation by the FDA (per a CNBC article). The fast-track status will speed up the review process of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccines.

In early July, this U.S.-based pharmaceutical giant announced positive results from its early-stage human trial which evaluated 45 people. Going by the preliminary data, Pfizer and its Germany-based partner BioNTech informed that one of its four candidates for the coronavirus vaccine has successfully generated neutralizing antibodies in all participants, who were given two of the 10 or 30 microgram doses after 28 days (per a CNBC article). Notably, every participant in the trial was administered 10, 30 or 100 microgram doses of the vaccine.

Moreover, the company informed that the levels of neutralizing antibodies were 1.8 to 2.8 times more in the trial participants than in recovered coronavirus patients. The results were posted in a paper, which was released on MedRXiv, according to a CNBC article.

Pfizer and BioNTech are aiming to start a large trial by later this month if they receive regulatory approval. It is worth noting here that Pfizer is targeting to produce up to 100 million doses by the end of this year and more than 1.2 billion doses by 2021-end, if the vaccine is approved.

Progress in Vaccine Research So Far

The first company to start human clinical trials of its coronavirus vaccine candidate in the United States — Moderna MRNA — is expected to initiate the final-stage clinical trial in July. The last stage that will be arranged in partnership with the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases would involve 30,000 participants in the United States and use a 100-microgram dose of the vaccine. The company also recently announced a manufacturing agreement with pan-European pharmaceutical company, Laboratorios Farmacéuticos Rovi, S.A. (Rovi), for manufacturing Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate for markets outside the United States.

Going on, Vaxart, Inc.’s (VXRT) oral COVID-19 vaccine candidate has been picked for investigation in a non-human primate challenge study. The new study will be organized and funded by Operation Warp Speed (“OWS”), which is a new national program, to provide substantial quantities of a safe, effective vaccine to Americans by January 2021. Notably, the five shortlisted companies under the OWS initiative to rapidly develop a coronavirus vaccine are Moderna, Oxford University and AstraZeneca AZN, J&J JNJ, Merck (MRCK) and Pfizer, per The New York Times report.

Notably, AstraZeneca, which is developing coronavirus vaccine in collaboration with Oxford University, also expects to begin late-stage studies if the phase I/II study, results from which are expected to be released shortly, is successful.

It is also worth noting here that infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is mildly expecting scientists to develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine by early 2021, per a CNBC article. According to the World Health Organization, more than 100 vaccines are currently under development. Notably, the FDA has issued guidance documents for companies that are developing a vaccine to prevent coronavirus in order to get approval for the same. The guidance specifies the data that the companies need to submit in order to get approval for their COVID-19 vaccines.

ETFs to Gain

The race to introduce vaccine and treatment for coronavirus is opening up opportunities, making the biotech sector a prospective space for investments. Therefore, we discuss a few ETFs that provide exposure to the biotech sector:

iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF IBB

This fund seeks to provide exposure to U.S. biotechnology and pharmaceutical stocks and tracks 10.08 billion with an expense ratio of 0.47% (read: 3 Hot Sector ETFs to Tide Over the Coronavirus Crisis in Q3).


The fund seeks daily investment results, before fees and expenses, which match the S&P Biotechnology Select Industry Index. It holds about 133 securities in its basket. It has AUM of $6.05 billion and an expense ratio of 0.35% (read: Top-Ranked ETFs That Crushed the Market in 1H).

First Trust Amex Biotechnology Index FBT

The fund measures the performance of a cross section of companies in the biotechnology industry that are primarily involved in the use of biological processes to develop products or provide services. It holds about 31 securities in its basket. Its AUM is around $2.23 billion (read: How Are Biotech ETFs Reacting to Coronavirus Treatment News?).

ARK Genomic Revolution ETF ARKG

This is an actively-managed fund. Companies within ARKG are focused on and are expected to substantially benefit from extending and enhancing the quality of human and other life by incorporating technological and scientific developments and advancements in genomics into their business. It generally holds about 30-50 securities in its basket. It has AUM of $1.52 billion and an expense ratio of 0.75% (read:4 Sector ETFs Up More Than 30% in First-Half 2020).

VanEck Vectors Biotech ETF BBH

The underlying MVIS US Listed Biotech 25 Index tracks the overall performance of companies involved in the development and production, marketing and sales of drugs based on genetic analysis and diagnostic equipment. It holds about 24 securities in its basket. Its AUM is $509.2 million and it has an expense ratio of 0.35%.

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Johnson Johnson (JNJ): Free Stock Analysis Report
AstraZeneca PLC (AZN): Free Stock Analysis Report
Pfizer Inc. (PFE): Free Stock Analysis Report
Moderna, Inc. (MRNA): Free Stock Analysis Report
iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB): ETF Research Reports
SPDR SP Biotech ETF (XBI): ETF Research Reports
VanEck Vectors Biotech ETF (BBH): ETF Research Reports
First Trust NYSE Arca Biotechnology ETF (FBT): ETF Research Reports
ARK Genomic Revolution ETF (ARKG): ETF Research Reports
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