coronavirus vaccine: This biopharma venture surged almost 400% in 2-month2 min read . Updated: 07 May 2020, 06:14 PM IST
Thanks to a steady stream of subsequent announcements and tie-up partners and a 25% gain today, the stock of AnGes Inc. now commands the highest weighting of almost 10% on the $55 billion Tokyo Stock Exchange Mothers startup board
TOKYO : A Japanese biopharma venture has surged almost 400% in just over two months on hopes that its vaccine candidate for the coronavirus will be successful.
AnGes Inc., a spin-off from Osaka University, announced March 5 that it was developing a DNA vaccine for coronavirus. Thanks to a steady stream of subsequent announcements and tie-up partners and a 25% gain on Thursday, the stock now commands the highest weighting of almost 10% on the 5.88 trillion yen ($55 billion) Tokyo Stock Exchange Mothers startup board.
The pace of the vaccine’s development has attracted significant attention in Japan, with the initial announcement followed in just weeks by the start of pre-clinical trials on animals. Human trials are set to to begin as early as July, with a larger trial of 1,000 people eyed for September, according to reports.
“It’s hard to say anything before the trials begin, but the start line has moved a lot closer," said ACE Research Institute analyst Tomohiko Ikeno. He noted the speed at which development of the vaccine was progressing, and said tie-ups with other firms and AnGes’ solid balance sheet should allow it to pursue the development.
“The company is working in a field it’s familiar with. It’s not as if they’re in unknown territory."
DNA vaccines are a novel type of vaccine using genetic material from viruses or bacteria to induce an immune system response. The World Health Organization notes that DNA vaccines have a number of potential advantages over traditional vaccines, including “improved vaccine stability, the absence of any infectious agent and the relative ease of large-scale manufacture."
But such vaccines have yet to be used in humans -- and AnGes’ is just one of 100 potential candidates in pre-clinical trials.
“The problem with vaccines is that you’re putting it into healthy people, and possibly causing more harm than good," said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Caroline Stewart.
Stewart used Sanofi’s dengue vaccine as an example of what could go wrong in vaccine development. Its vaccine was banned in Philippines after a 1.5 billion euro project due to safety concerns.
AnGes’ rise has lifted shares in other companies partnering in the development, including Takara Bio Inc., which rose about 9% Thursday, and EPS Holdings Inc., up nearly 3%.
While biotech investments can often yield high returns, the risks can also be huge. In 2019, the failed results of a clinical trial for a stroke drug by SanBio Co., which was then the most heavily weighted stock on the startup board, brought the entire index down and triggered futures circuit breakers in an event known as “Sanbio Shock," wiping billions of dollars off the index.