China is dealing with another flu outbreak, this one being called H7N9. While still in its early stages, this new bird flu outbreak has claimed 6 lives out of 21 infected. As this story develops, it should create speculation in flu vaccine stocks again and drive home the fact that as investors, with the annual outbreak of some new flu strain, there is reason to be invested in stocks that deal with it. For investors there is always an angle on playing such media hype, real or not, and this time should be no different. In recent years, we have faced numerous different bird flu outbreaks, and each time, the flu vaccine stocks have had price increases. No matter the strain or name given to the flu, there is always a basket of stocks with vaccines that perform. I will go over some possible candidates in this article. The following stocks have vaccines that are currently undergoing trials for flu and should warrant your attention.
BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (BCRX) is always mentioned when there is a flu epidemic anywhere in the world. Good news this past week regarding its flu drug sent shares higher by 30%. BCRX has the most advanced flu drug right now in trials and this news gives hope back to the company. BioCryst has received a comment letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration outlining a pathway by which a New Drug Application (NDA) could be filed for the intravenous flu treatment. Peramivir is approved in Japan and Korea, and may address unmet needs in the treatment of influenza. Peramivir is a potent, intravenously administered investigational antiviral agent that rapidly delivers high plasma concentrations to the sites of infection. Discovered by BioCryst, peramivir inhibits the interactions of influenza neuraminidase, an enzyme that is critical to the spread of influenza within the host. Peramivir is an inhibitor of influenza A and B viruses, including strains of influenza viruses that may be resistant to available neuraminidase inhibitors.
Novavax, Inc. (NVAX) is developing a vaccine product candidate to protect against various circulating strains of pandemic influenza, including H1N1 and H5N1 influenza, as well as seasonal flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Novavax is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company that focuses on developing recombinant vaccines for infectious diseases using its virus-like particles (VLP) and recombinant nanoparticle vaccine technology. Novavax is heavily involved in the flu market and is an obvious candidate for a spike in buying interest in times such as now and is a stock investors should strongly consider. The company has 11 ongoing flu trials. On Friday NVAX had a nice gain in price after an analyst stated the company may be called on by China to help develop a vaccine. The Wedbush analyst said it is possible the company will be called on to develop a vaccine for a strain of avian flu that has killed six people in China over the last few days.
iBio, Inc. (IBIO) is a flu play most investors seem unaware of. Last July, iBio signed a global partnership with GE Healthcare. The companies formed a new global alliance to commercialize plant-based technologies for biopharmaceutical and vaccine manufacturing. In work funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, iBio's pioneering plant-based technology has been used to produce an avian influenza vaccine candidate that recently completed a successful Phase I clinical trial. The iBioLaunch platform was also used to produce a candidate vaccine against H1N1 influenza, for which a human Phase I trial was successfully completed in March 2012. Speed to create vaccines is what is often needed, and that is what IBIO does. Last month IBIO announced it is proceeding with development of an antibody candidate as a therapeutic against influenza, including highly pathogenic H5N1 strains resistant to drugs such as oseltamivir (marketed as Tamiflu®). This proprietary antibody, which is based upon iBio's iBioLaunch™ technology, has demonstrated safety and therapeutic efficacy in highly predictive animal models infected with a variety of influenza types, including H5N1.
This small basket of speculative flu stocks should give traders and investors a nice starting point for possible investment in the flu sector. Given the need every few months for a new strain of vaccine, this is a sector that should give investors handsome returns. There are only a handful of other companies that focus on flu vaccines. I have singled out these three as a starting point and will go over additional flu stocks in my next article. The flu story in China is starting to get more and more media attention, and that usually translates into stock price movement.