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Meet the New Frontrunners in the Race for a COVID-19 Vaccine

24/7 Wall St. logo 24/7 Wall St. 7/1/2020 Chris Lange

a close up of a blue background © Provided by 24/7 Wall St. Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) and BioNTech S.E. (NASDAQ: BNTX) advanced on Wednesday (in more ways than one) when they provided an update on their COVID-19 vaccine. These companies have been collaborating to produce a messenger RNA (mRNA) based vaccine for the past few months, and this work is yielding promising results.

Note that while this vaccine news is positive for these companies, a number of other coronavirus vaccine companies were taking a hit on Wednesday. While the race for a COVID-19 is of major importance to mankind, it will be incredibly lucrative for the first to cross the finish line.

In terms of the specifics for Pfizer and BioNTech’s announcement, preliminary U.S. data from the most advanced of four investigational vaccine candidates was released. These come from the BNT162 mRNA-based vaccine program, Project Lightspeed, against SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the current global pandemic.

The BNT162 program is evaluating at least four experimental vaccines, each of which represents a unique combination of mRNA format and target antigen. Basically, each vaccine encodes an optimized SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain (RBD) antigen, which prevents the spread and replication of the virus.

Co-founder and CEO of BioNTech, Ugur Sahin, noted that, “These preliminary data are encouraging, showing that BNT162b1 which exploits RBD SARS-CoV-2 as a target antigen is able to produce neutralizing antibody responses in humans at or above the levels observed in convalescent sera.”

Looking ahead, the companies are seeking to progress to a large global Phase 2b/3 safety and efficacy trial, which may involve up to 30,000 healthy participants and is expected to begin in late July.

BioNTech stock traded up about 10% Wednesday to $73.33, in a 52-week range of $12.52 to $105.00. The consensus price target is $38.32.

Pfizer stock was up about 5%, at $34.35 in a 52-week range of $27.88 to $44.56. The consensus price target is $40.04.

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