Moderna, Pfizer Have 2-Month Lead Over Coronavirus Vaccine Competitors: Analyst

The coronavirus vaccine race has two likely winners that have surged ahead in a crowded field, according to an SVB Leerink analyst.

Pfizer, Moderna In The Lead: It now appears that Moderna Inc MRNA and Pfizer Inc. PFE, along with its German partner BioNTech SE – ADR BNTX, have a two month or more advantage over their nearest rivals among coronavirus vaccine developers, SVB Leerink analyst Geoffrey Porges said in a Wednesday note.

The conviction comes after Dr. Larry Corey, head of the COVID-19 Prevention Network, shared the development timeline and progress of COVID-19 vaccines developed under the White House's Operation Warp Speed at a Tuesday John Hopkins University-University of Washington symposium. 

Of the vaccine developers that have initiated Phase 3 trials, AstraZeneca plc's AZN late-stage trial is still on clinical hold in the U.S. due to safety concerns on transverse myelitis, the analyst said.

Pfizer and BioNTech are expected to read out interim Phase 3 data in late October or early November, and Moderna is expected to read out in early November, Porges said, citing Corey's presentation of the estimated timeline of the clinical trials.

This is based on the differences in dosing and clinical trial design, the analyst said.

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J&J Close Behind: The other vaccine sponsor that is likely to have interim results before the end of 2020 is Johnson & Johnson JNJ, Porges said.

This view is based on J&J likely reaching 50 events in December due to its single-dose regimen, the analyst said. 

Vaccines from other manufacturers — including Novavax, Inc. NVAX and Sanofi SA SNY — are a few months behind, likely reading out in the January-April timeframe of 2021, he said. 

"In aggregate it is possible that we will have two or three COVID vaccines approved for Emergency Use in limited indications by year end, and then a further 2 or 3 by the end of Q4, assuming successful interim efficacy read outs and then rapid submission of the EUA application packages by the sponsors," Porges said. 

Even if the interim efficacy analysis results are not positive, necessitating a final event analysis, one or two vaccines could still be approved under emergency use by year's end, the analyst said, followed by J&J's in the first quarter of 2021 and two more in the second quarter.

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