Moderna or BioNTech: J.P. Morgan Lays Odds On the Race to a COVID-19 Vaccine

The world needs a vaccine against COVID-19, and with some 200 vaccine candidates in various stages of development, and more than 30 of these vaccines already in Phase 3 clinical trials, odds are we will get a vaccine -- probably several -- sooner than you might expect.

J.P. Morgan analyst Cory Kasimov focused in on two of the leading candidates: mRNA-1273 from Moderna (MRNA), and BNT162 from BioNTech (BNTX), laying odds on which of the two has the best chance of success -- and which might win FDA approval first.

Kasimov's note, it should be pointed out, is not intended to be an exhaustive discussion of all 30 leading vaccine candidates, or even a thorough review of the two vaccines focused on. Rather, explained the analyst, he just "wanted to get a better sense of the likelihood of success in Phase 3 for two of the front runners in the vaccine race." As such, the report should perhaps be best viewed as a sort of first look at two good prospects to rank among the winners of this race.

So what did Kasimov come up with from this review? Several observations, actually, and several which should constitute good news for investors in Moderna and BioNTech.

Simulating potential results of the Phase 3 trials, Kasimov notes first and foremost that "both trials should ultimately be successful if efficacy rates are anywhere north of 60%." (I.e. The FDA will probably approve both companies' vaccines if they are 60% or more effective at preventing infection, relative to patients receiving placebos). It appears that the FDA could approve vaccines with efficacy rates of 50% or even as low as 30% -- but 60% is preferable, and 70% or better would all but assure approval of both companies' vaccines.

That's the good news. Now here's the better news: Kasimov is particularly interested in the companies' chances of winning early termination of their Phase 3 trials, and early approval of their vaccines based on "overwhelming efficacy." In this regard, 70% or better efficacy, in the analyst's opinion, would not only close to guarantee ultimate approval, but also potentially win early termination and early approval.

How early is "early"?

"We see a low probability that ... a study would stop for overwhelming efficacy ... in October" for either vaccine. Early termination / early approval could come as soon as November if either vaccine is wildly successful, however.

It almost goes without saying that this would be great news for the stock market as a whole, as well as for whichever company's vaccine wins early approval in particular, because the faster any vaccine gets approved, the faster the population can get inoculated and the threat of COVID-19 be widely mitigated, allowing the economy to reopen faster. Still, investors need to be aware that Kasimov is just trying to cover all possibilities in this report, and is not at all confident that approval in November is likely. The more so because, as the analyst admits, "we'll be the first to acknowledge that what actually occurs is a moving target given our incomplete knowledge of Phase 3 trial design details / characteristics, the difficulty of forecasting infection rates, random chance, and unknown unknowns."

But even so -- fingers crossed.

Using TipRanks’ Stock Comparison tool, we were able to evaluate these 2 stocks alongside each other to get a sense of what the analyst community has to say.

To find good ideas for healthcare stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analyst. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.

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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