Don’t Buy iBio Stock for a Coronavirus Vaccine

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Among all the companies involved in the race to end the novel coronavirus pandemic, iBio (NYSEMKT:IBIO) stock was the most intriguing to me.

A scientist in medical gear peers through a microscope.

Source: Shutterstock

Just not in a good way.

Since the pandemic started the company has delivered a lot of promising press releases. But this is suspicious. IBIO stock does not pass my tests.

iBio claims to have a novel coronavirus vaccine candidate, IBIO-201. It claims an “exclusive worldwide license agreement” on a potential cure, called ACE2-Fc, from Planet Biotechnology. It says its FastPharming system could mass produce vaccines quickly, using plant cells.

But while big companies like AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN), Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), Novavax (NASDAQ:NVAX) and Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) are all in late-stage human trials, iBio is still in the lab.

What Is the Science Behind IBIO Stock?

There are three stories here. There is the political story, examining how desperate President Donald Trump is for a vaccine before November. There’s the business story, with billions being awarded for products that aren’t ready for market.

Then there’s the science story, which is getting lost.

Here’s the science for iBio. Two drug candidates, neither of which has progressed out of the preclinical phase. A production technique that has also not been tried yet.

The vaccine candidates use a protein derived from a bacteria, called a lichenase booster molecule, to boost the effectiveness of antigens derived from the coronavirus. It is this protein — LicKM — that’s the secret sauce. In lab tests, it seems to strengthen response to a vaccine and its duration.

But those are lab tests. If LicKM were being used to increase the potency of a Pfizer, AstraZeneca or even Moderna vaccine, that would be exciting. But the iBio candidate is still in the lab. To reach the market, you need human tests.

Then you have ACE2-FC from Planet Biotechnology. This is an enzyme that binds with the spike protein that gives the coronavirus its name. It was studied extensively at the start of this century. Planet’s drug is designed to bind to receptors the virus uses to infect cells, blocking it.

What brings Planet and iBio together is that Planet Biotechnology produced a plant-based antibody — or “plantibody” — for a clinical trial. iBio’s production system is also plant-based. If Planet has something useful, in other words, iBio might make it.

Where’s the Beef

Take a look at the executives. You will see former consultants. You will also find individuals with medical interest in fibrotic diseases and cancer.

None of the people running the company, in other words, have extensive expertise with coronaviruses or vaccines. What they are doing is making deals with other businesses for technologies, drug candidates and vaccine candidates that might prove therapeutic.

But the FastPharming technique has not been used and the drug candidates have not been tried.

What does that mean for IBIO stock?

The Bottom Line on IBIO Stock

IBIO stock spiked on its FastPharming release. It spiked again after International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM) let it use its clinical trial management system and it was added to the Russell 2000. The stock fell in August despite a press release claiming IBIO-201 had created an immune response against Covid-19 in a lab.

What this tells me is that iBio does not have it. It does not have a drug, or a vaccine, that is going to deliver anything anytime soon. What it has is a way of tickling speculation, enough jargon in its press releases to make the stock interesting.

But that’s it. InvestorPlace contributor Tom Taulli is right. Look elsewhere for a Covid-19 vaccine.

On the date of publication, Dana Blankenhorn did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. 

Dana Blankenhorn has been a financial and technology journalist since 1978. He is the author of the environmental thriller Bridget O’Flynn and the Bear, available at the Amazon Kindle store. Follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn

The post Don’t Buy iBio Stock for a Coronavirus Vaccine appeared first on InvestorPlace.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


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