Monkeypox outbreak may boost the shares of vaccine producers, antiviral drug makers

A person arrives to receive a monkeypox vaccination at the Northwell Health Immediate Care Center in New York, on July 15, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - As the health authorities all over the globe search for ways to stop the monkeypox outbreak, investors are snapping up shares of companies that could benefit from the race to quell the disease.

Shares of vaccine producers, antiviral drug makers and protective equipment manufacturers are in demand as investors tap a strategy that delivered gains during the coronavirus pandemic.

Biotechnological company Bavarian Nordic and pharmaceutical firm Siga Technologies are among the stocks in focus as well as medical tools supplier Precision System Science.

While nowhere as severe as the Covid-19 outbreak, the spread of monkeypox infections across more than 70 countries in just a few months has prompted the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare it as a global emergency.

This pronouncement may give the trade an extra tailwind.

"At the moment, the world is relying on one manufacturer, Bavarian Nordic, for the monkeypox vaccine," said Mr Manish Bhargava, a fund manager at Straits Investment Holdings in Singapore.

"To keep up with demand, we can expect other biotech firms to ramp up research and production. It's starting to reflect in the strong stock price performance for the sector."

Vaccines and Antivirals Shares of Bavarian Nordic have more than tripled from a low in May after governments began ordering the Danish company's monkeypox vaccine - the only one approved specifically to ward off the infection.

The firm has raised its revenue guidance several times this year.

Analysts are taking note, with Citigroup increasing its target price for the company's stock by 20 per cent and flagging that there may be further upside if more orders come through.

Shares of other companies making vaccines or antivirals for monkeypox have also caught the attention of US retail traders.

The stock of Siga Technologies, which manufactures a treatment called Tpoxx, has doubled this year.

The therapy is approved to treat smallpox in the United States, and monkeypox and other viruses in the European Union and Britain.

Chimerix's Tembexa is a countermeasure that is used to treat smallpox, and the firm said in May it would sell the drug to Emergent BioSolutions.

On the vaccine side, Emergent's ACAM2000 is a smallpox vaccine that can be utilised in some cases against monkeypox.

Siga, Chimerix and Emergent are the "key beneficiaries" of the WHO's declaration that the monkeypox outbreak is a global emergency, according to Cowen analyst Boris Peaker.

"With increased resources allocated to contact tracing and testing in EU and US, we anticipate the case count to rise significantly over the next few months, potentially leading to more procurement of countermeasures," Mr Peaker wrote in a note.

Japan has also started studying smallpox vaccines as a way to prevent the spread of the outbreak, and this may ignite interest in Meiji Holdings as its unit KM Biologics produces a smallpox vaccine. Meiji Holdings has jumped 12 per cent from June low.

The Asian nation has a stockpile of smallpox vaccines but the amount has not been disclosed while preparations for administration of Tpoxx are progressing, Citigroup analyst Hidemaru Yamaguchi wrote in a note.

Virus detection companies that provide virus testing kits and tools are also in focus.

In Japan, shares of Precision System, which makes medical testing equipment, have almost doubled since late June.

Switzerland's Roche said in May it had developed three test kits to help scientists trace monkeypox.

More than 30 companies in China have obtained EU certification for their monkeypox virus detection products, Jefferies Financial Group analysts including Christopher Lui wrote in a July 25 note.

These include early movers such as Autobio Diagnostics, Shanghai ZJ Bio-Tech, and Daan Gene. Shanghai ZJ has climbed almost 40 per cent in July.

Makers of antigen and antibody test kits such as Zhejiang Orient Gene Biotech and Assure Tech (Hangzhou) are the other potential beneficiaries.

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