Vaccine stocks — including BioNTech stock — pared deep losses Thursday after German Chancellor Angela Merkel opposed waiving Covid vaccine patent rights.
This week, the World Trade Organization called for member nations to temporarily ease patent protections for Covid vaccines, like those produced by BioNTech (BNTX) and Moderna (MRNA). On Wednesday, President Joe Biden and U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai voiced support for the move.
But Merkel said waiving patent protections would create “severe complications” for the production of vaccines, Bloomberg reported early Thursday, citing a German government spokeswoman.
On the stock market today, BioNTech stock fell 1.6% to 168. That was better than an earlier 15% plunge. Moderna stock dipped 1.4% to 160.50. Shares of Moderna were also under pressure after first-quarter Covid vaccine sales missed forecasts.
BioNTech Stock Under Pressure
Merkel wasn’t alone in her views — bullishly for BioNTech stock.
Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, chief executive of industry group Biotechnology Innovation Organization, penned a letter Wednesday opposing the plan. McMurry-Heath is reportedly being considered to head up the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“Handing needy countries a recipe book without the ingredients, safeguards and sizable workforce needed will not help people waiting for the vaccine,” she said. “Handing them the blueprint to construct a kitchen that — in optimal conditions — can take a year to build will not help us stop the emergence of dangerous new Covid variants.”
Instead, McMurry-Heath suggested making the U.S. the world’s “arsenal of vaccines.” The suggestion is a quote from Biden just last week.
Vaccine Stocks Expect Big Sales
Waiving Covid vaccine patents would hamstring BioNTech stock and a handful of small biotech companies with a single product either on the market or expected to soon launch.
Moderna and BioNTech use messenger RNA technology in their vaccines. These vaccines tell the body to make a single protein, mimicking a portion of the Covid vaccine. The immune system then makes antibodies. Novavax‘s (NVAX) experimental vaccine uses insect cells.
The former two are already authorized in the U.S. and other countries. Novavax’s vaccine is under a rolling review in the U.S. In the first quarter, Moderna generated $1.73 billion in sales of its Covid vaccine. Pfizer (PFE), BioNTech’s partner, reported $3.5 billion in vaccine sales.
BioNTech stock fell 3.5% on Wednesday after Biden voiced support for waiving patent protection for Covid vaccines. Moderna stock also tumbled 6.2%. Novavax stock fell 4.9%.
Follow Allison Gatlin on Twitter at @IBD_AGatlin.
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