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In Search of a Better Covid Vaccine, This Analyst Taps Ocugen

When it comes to Covid-19 vaccines, Pfizer (PFE) and Moderna (MRNA) get all the headlines.

To an extent, that makes sense. After all, both Pfizer’s Comirnaty Covid vaccine and Moderna’s Spikevax use mRNA technology to elicit an immune response without ever actually introducing a virus of any sort into the body. In the Western world, these two are the most popular and widespread vaccines available for immunizing patients against the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

Still, as the pandemic enters its third year, as new variants of the virus emerge with regularity, it’s becoming increasingly — indeed, glaringly — obvious that these two vaccines are incapable of fully preventing infection by new variants (although they do appear to help lessen symptoms’ severity). Maybe, just maybe, it may be time to start looking around for new and better vaccines to fight Covid-19? And perhaps vaccines that are better at defeating the evolving threat posed by new Covid variants?

At least one research firm on Wall Street thinks that might be a good plan. And this is why Noble Capital analyst Robert LeBoyer recommended that investors take a look at small-cap vaccine maker Ocugen (OCGN), and its Covaxin vaccine candidate against Covid-19.

On Wednesday, Ocugen released data from a study conducted at Emory University, which Ocugen says showed that a two-round dose of Covaxin, followed up by a booster shot of the same vaccine, “generated robust neutralizing antibody responses against both Omicron (B.1.529) and Delta (B.1.617.2)” variants of Covid-19. Indeed, 100% of test serum samples taken during the trial “showed neutralization of the Delta variant and more than 90% of serum samples showed neutralization of the Omicron variant.”

Incidentally, previous studies showed that Covaxin was also effective at immunizing patients against the Alpha, Beta, Delta, Zeta, and Kappa variants of Covid-19 as well.

As Ocugen explains, rather than targeting just one Covid variant of concern, its goal with Covaxin is to create “a global vaccine against COVID-19” suitable for use “as a universal vaccine for adults and children.” For a world that is getting pretty tired right now of keeping track of all the new variant names for Covid — and of putting up with the lockdowns, school closures, booster shots, and masks required to fight them — that probably sounds like a pretty attractive proposition.

How does Ocugen do this?

“Covaxin uses whole-killed virus methodology that stimulates an immune response against multiple regions of the virus,” explains LeBoyer, and “produces antibodies against the surface proteins that can mutate into new strains as well as highly-conserved portions that do not change. This polyclonal response can give broad protection against current and future variants.”

Nor is this the only advantage Covaxin offers. More stable than Pfizer’s or Moderna’s vaccines, Covaxin can be stored at refrigerator temperatures for as long as two years without losing effectiveness. In contrast, both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines must be stored frozen, and have shorter shelf-lives.

Pfizer’s vaccine requires a storage temperature of negative 70 degrees Celsius, and can be stored at that temperature for up to six months. Moderna’s vaccine can survive for six months at a relatively balmy negative 20C. At refrigerated temperatures, though, both vaccines fail after just one month. 

Between the “logistical” advantages of having an easier-to-store and longer-lasting vaccine, and the potential for Covaxin to be more effective against a broader range of Covid variants, LeBoyer thinks Ocugen is a stock worth betting on — and rates Ocugen shares “outperform” with a $15 price target. (To watch LeBoyer’s track record, click here)

Among LeBoyer’s colleagues, OCGN has a Moderate Buy consensus rating, based on an evenly split 2 Buys and Holds, each. With an average price target of $10.33, there’s possible upside of ~163% over the next 12 months. (See OCGN stock forecast on TipRanks)

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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.