3 Biotech Stocks in the Hunt for COVID-19 Vaccine; One Analyst Calls Them a ‘Buy’

Nearly a year into a global pandemic the world is still on the back of its heels. In the face of ever increasing infection rates, world economies have slowed rapidly and unemployment has increased significantly, and now governments are reconsidering shutting down entire countries once again.

At the same time, the federal government has failed to pass a second stimulus package to prop up individuals who have lost their jobs and may be facing homelessness, as well as the need to help state and local governments provide a backstop against their own losses.

Given this backdrop, there is a lot riding on a potential vaccine and/or cure for COVID-19. There are many approaches that a lengthy list of varying companies are taking to bring their respective product to market.

Any company that does successfully bring a product to market that helps in the fight against the virus may see a significant increase in revenues as well as an in-kind increase in profits.

B. Riley Securities has highlighted three biotech companies that are approaching the virus from different directions. We ran the trio through TipRanks’ database to see how B. Riley’s recent analysis compared to other analysts’ projections.

Altimmune Inc. (ALT)

Altimmune is a biopharmaceutical company that develops vaccines and immune modulating therapies. Fighting the virus is likely to need both approaches, a vaccine as well as an immune therapy. With this kind of focus, Altimmune’s fortunes changed quickly with the onset of the COVID pandemic.

Altimmune produces AdCovid, a single dose, intranasal vaccine to protect against COVID-19. As B. Riley analyst Mayank Mamtani points out, Altimmune’s products “stands out in regards to lung specific IgA and CD8+ T-Cell responses” and further states that “In our view it blocks the virus at the source within the nose and respiratory tract.” AdCovid’s preclinical data shows a great deal of promise.

ALT stock was trading around $2 per share back in January. Once the company got involved in the fight against COVID-19, the stock jumped up to a high of $33.00 per share, but is now trading at $11; still, this is a move of +450% year-to-date.  

Given what Altimmune has going for it, and the potential upside, this prompted Mamtani to give Altimmune a Buy rating in his recent analysis. The analyst has a price target of $31, suggesting a potential upside of 182% from current levels. (To watch Mamtani’s track record, click here).

As it turns out, there are 4 Buy ratings equating to a Strong Buy on ALT with a low price target of $31 (coming from B. Riley), an average Price target of $49 and a high price target of $80. The average Price Target equates to a potential upside move of 345%. (See ALT stock analysis on TipRanks)

Arcturus Therapeutics (ARCT)

Arcturus Therapeutics focuses on RNA medicines with a focus on respiratory diseases. COVID, as it may be, is a virus that attacks the respiratory system.

Arcturus has a proprietary LNP delivery system that enables a safer, more deliverable method of bioavailable therapy. Regarding this method and Arcturus’ product advancements to this, B. Riley’s Mayank Mamtani noted, “Along with the proprietary LNP delivery platform, rapidly biodegradable LUNAR, alongside self-transcribing and replicating mRNA (STARR) technology, implies significant safety and durability advantage.”

Arcturus has a strong collaboration with Duke University and the Singapore Economic Development Corp to develop LUNAR-Cov19 (ARCT-021) — a self-replicating mRNA vaccine the might be sufficient to address the Coronavirus outbreak. The potential COVID-19 vaccine is now in a Phase 1/2 trial, and upcoming clinical results are expected in 4Q20. Given the backing and the product development, there appears to be significant potential with this product.

ARCT stock started the year at $10 per share but since has jumped to today’s price of $53 this is a 430% year-to-date increase.

Considering the potential for the drug making it to market, Mamtani gives ARCT a Buy rating along with an $82 price target. This equates to an upside potential of 52% from current levels.

Overall, what does the street have to say about ARCT? There are a total of 6 Buy ratings and all add up to a Strong Buy consensus rating. With an average price target of $75.17, the stock is expected to rise nearly 39% over the next months. (See ARCT stock analysis on TipRanks)

Heat Biologics Inc (HTBX)

Heat Biologics is a biopharmaceutical that develops immunotherapies. In development is a T-Cell activation platform that is proprietary and is a strong contender in the fight against COVID-19.

There are similarities to SARS-Cov-1 from 2003 and today’s COVID-19. As it turns out, and as bad as it sounds, having previously contracted the original SARS-Cov-1 in 2003 would have been a good thing. Patients that recovered from the original SARS-Cov-1 and contracted the current COVID-19, are seeing long-lasting T-Cells memory and are generally asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. Given this, Heat Biologics is using an approach to mimics the original SARS-Cov-1 to provide immunity against COVID-19.

Heat Biologics is in collaboration with Waisman Biomanufacturing to manufacture COVID-19 and are preparing to deliver its products to market. As B. Riley’s Mamtani points out in his recent analysis, “we view single-dose format of gp96-IgG to serve as complementary to advanced C-19 vaccine candidates in developing combination-based approaches aimed at enhancing T cell immunity.”

Given the potential of the immunotherapies and T-Cell activation Platform and the partnership with Waisman Biomanufacturing, this prompted Mamtani to place, once again, a Buy rating on Heat Biologics shares. The analyst suggests that if everything goes as planned, HTBX will be a $4 stock in the next 12 months, implying nearly 245% return.

As for other Wall Street analysts, there is only one additional rating on HTBX, which is also bullish. The average price target among the two stands at $4.50, which suggests a potential upside of a whopping 288%. (See HTBX stock analysis on TipRanks)

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