While coronavirus cases in other developed countries are flattening, the U.S. has not been so fortunate. As of July 24, the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached a new record, with more than 78,000 Americans infected. Meanwhile, approximately 1,485 Americans are dying each day of COVID-19.  

There is light at the end of the tunnel, however. Currently, two of the largest biotech companies in the world, BioNTech (NASDAQ:BNTX)and GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK), are part of the race for a COVID-19 cure. Let’s take a look at which of the two companies is the better buy. 

Factory worker with hygienic mask stand with confident action with her co-worker in the background.

Image Source: Getty Images.

Here’s the progress from BioNTech

Together with Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), BioNTech is developing an experimental RNA vaccine for COVID-19 called BNT162b1. In its phase 1 clinical trials, 24 out of 24 participants who received BNT162b1 developed antibodies that neutralize SARS-CoV-2. Also, 95% of patients who received the vaccine developed T-cell responses, meaning immune cells that potentially grant immunity to the deadly virus for several years. The vaccine was also well-tolerated, with no serious adverse events reported.

Currently, the vaccine is in phase 2/3 clinical trials. If it’s successful, Pfizer and BioNTech would seek approval with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in October. But demand for its prototype has already gone wild. On July 22, the U.S. government secured 100 million doses of BioNTech’s vaccine, with a potential total order of 500 million doses. At $19.50 per dose, that could translate to about $2 billion to $10 billion in revenue for the two companies over the next year. Investors’ expectations for BioNTech have run high, with the stock returning 147% year-to-date. 

Vaccines aside, BioNTech also has a vibrant oncology portfolio, with 11 candidates in development across 12 clinical trials. The farthest of these is near phase 2 development. With 452 million euros in cash (and an additional 217 million euros in upcoming investments), compared with a net loss of $53.4 million euros in Q12020, I think investors are more likely than not to witness some top-line results before the company has to raise cash again.

Group of doctors talking about corona virus during conference.

Image Source: Getty Images.

Here’s the progress from GlaxoSmithKline

Together with Sanofi (NASDAQ:SNY), GlaxoSmithKline is developing an adjuvant coronavirus vaccine. An adjuvant is a biological additive that can be combined with traditional vaccines to enhance the latter’s ability to elicit antibody and T-cell response. In addition, the adjuvant can lower the amount of biological ingredients required by the vaccine, thereby reducing its manufacturing and distribution costs.

Currently, GlaxoSmithKline is capable of manufacturing up to 1 billion doses of its adjuvant by 2021, if the biologic passes clinical trials. It’s currently in the phase 1 investigational phase, with data expected in the next few months.

Although the company’s progress may not be as amazing as that of BioNTech, keep in mind that GlaxoSmithKline is a blue-chip biotech company. Even if its vaccine programs flunk, investors would still be buying an underlying business that is growing its revenue by 19% year-over-year as of Q22020. The company brought in $8.4 billion in revenue and $0.42 per share in earnings for investors during the quarter. One of the strongest performing segments was consumer healthcare, which grew by 25% compared with Q2 2019.

Which one is the better coronavirus stock?

Overall, I would argue BioNTech is hands-down the better coronavirus stock, as its experimental vaccine has already demonstrated preliminary efficacy and safety, is on track to be distributed by the end of the year if all goes well, and has the backing of orders from the U.S. and U.K governments.

While GlaxoSmithKline is a reputable biotech company with a promising candidate, investors should look for the fine print before choosing it as a hedge against the COVID-19 pandemic. Management has stated that it does not intend to profit from its adjuvant vaccine, noting that if the treatment is approved, the company will reinvest its vaccine revenue into pandemic preparedness. The announcement did not thrill investors, and GlaxoSmithKline’s shares are down 14% year-to-date. I think BioNTech is the much better buy for biotech investors

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