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Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 Vaccine Might Be Effective Against Virus Variants

Pfizer and BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine may be effective in neutralizing rapidly spreading variants of SARS-CoV2 that have developed in the UK and South Africa, according to the findings of a preliminary laboratory study.

The study conducted by Pfizer (PFE) and the University of Texas Medical branch suggests that the US drugmaker’s mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine, BNT162b2, could be used in the neutralization of the virus with the co-called N501Y mutant, found in two rapidly rapidly variants of SARS-CoV-2. The researchers of the study noted that the mutation was of particular concern as it was located in the viral receptor binding site that coats the virus and thereby enables the virus to expand its host range.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine contains messenger RNA (mRNA), which is genetic material. Specifically, it contains a small piece of the SARS-CoV-2 virus’ mRNA that instructs cells in the body to make the virus’ distinctive “spike” protein. When a patient receives the vaccine, their body produces copies of the spike protein, which does not cause disease, but triggers the immune system to learn to react defensively, producing an immune response against SARS-CoV-2.

“Sera of 20 participants in a previously reported trial of the mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine BNT162b2 had equivalent neutralizing titers to the N501 and Y501 viruses,” according to the study findings.

Furthermore, the study indicated that BNT162b2 seemed to be effective against 15 additional possible virus mutations, saying that the “neutralization of Y501 virus by BNT162b2-elicited human sera is consistent with preserved neutralization of a panel of 15 pseudoviruses bearing spikes with other mutations found in circulating SARS-CoV-2 strains.”

The researchers in the study cautioned though that the findings were limited as the Y501 virus did not include the full set of spike mutations found on the rapidly spreading strains in the UK or South Africa.

Meanwhile, shares of Pfizer have declined 13% over the past month and were up about 1% over the past year. (See Pfizer stock analysis on TipRanks)

On Dec. 11, Merrill Lynch analyst Geoff Meacham raised the PFE’s price target from $42 to $43 (16% upside potential) and maintained a Hold rating, as he remains concerned about the drugmaker’s patent expirations.

Overall, the rest of the Street is cautiously optimistic on the stock with a Moderate Buy analyst consensus. That’s based on 3 Buys vs 9 Holds. Looking ahead, the average analyst price target stands at $41.83, putting the upside potential at about 13% over the next 12 months.

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