As one of the earlier novel coronavirus vaccine contenders, iBio (NYSEAMERICAN:IBIO) is one of the top stories on Wall Street. At one point, IBIO stock jumped more than 21-fold on a year-to-date basis. While shares have recently come down significantly on a percentage basis, we’re still talking about prices that are 12 times higher than they were at the beginning of January.
Admittedly, though, the idea of buying shares now is arguably a much more difficult proposition. Back at the start of the year, IBIO stock was on the sub-dollar menu. Now, shares are trading hands for a premium cup of coffee. As such, people naturally fear holding the bag – and what an expensive one it would be!
Adding to the apprehension is the fact that iBio is lagging in the vaccination race. Other competitors like Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) and Novavax (NASDAQ:NVAX) have a higher probability of crossing the finish line. But this advantage is no guarantee for success.
Despite President Donald Trump’s optimism that a vaccine will be ready by the November election, Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccinologist at Baylor College of Medicine, had a blunt message, telling CNN, “There’s no way. There’s just no way.”
For one thing, Moderna has encountered delays in its enrollment for Phase 3 clinical trials. Second, the process of verifying the efficacy of the vaccine will at best push the readiness date past Election Day.
This raises an important point about speculative biotechnology plays like IBIO stock. If bigger, well-capitalized companies are encountering setbacks with developing a Covid-19 vaccine, smaller outfits will probably at least suffer the same level of resistance.
Still, as a gamble, iBio may still have some life left.
Finer Details May Help Distinguish IBIO Stock
While iBio is behind in the race, by no means is that an immediate disqualification. As White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci warned, a vaccine may be only partially effective. This suggests that we could see multiple vaccines that each meet minimum efficacy thresholds while delivering solutions for people with varying health conditions or needs.
Another reason not to dismiss IBIO stock outright is the specific nature of the underlying vaccine. In a recent disclosure, iBio claimed that its candidate IBIO-201 produced encouraging results in pre-clinical testing, demonstrating its “ability to generate an immune response to SARS-CoV-2 sequences and neutralize protein interaction.”
Of course, biotechs will play up their data to the highest extent possible. But one detail in the test caught my eye. In the test, IBIO-201 was delivered via intramuscular and intranasal routes. If the latter method can be proven just as effective as the former, it could possibly lift IBIO stock.
How? From my understanding, Moderna’s vaccine is delivered via intramuscular injections. However, according to the Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, the “nasal route offers advantages such as ease of self administration and induction of mucosal as well as systemic immunity.” Interestingly, the Journal notes:
intranasal vaccination may confer protection against infections at other mucosal sites, such as the lungs, intestines and genital tract, and provide cross-protection against variant strains through mucosal antibody secretion.
Therefore, the intranasal approach may be the more effective solutions against Covid-19. If so, that would be another eerie similarity to the film Contagion.
But most importantly in my opinion, intranasal vaccines are less physically offensive or discomforting than intramuscular injections. If you need to vaccinate millions in order to achieve herd immunity, it’s better to have a palatable delivery system.
Addressing Scale and Tinfoils
As you know, there are many conspiracy theories floating around about Covid-19. I don’t know if this is due to people eschewing licensed medical advice for Fox News, but this is a real phenomenon. As a result, just 50% of Americans plan to get a Covid-19 vaccine, according to Sciencemag.org.
Here, iBio offers a solution. With the intranasal approach, there is no perceived association with pain, disease transmission (such as HIV or hepatitis B) or anaphylactic responses as there is with intramuscular injections. So, this may help bring down the number of never-vaxxers.
Also, as I and my InvestorPlace colleagues have noted, iBio uses plants as bioreactors. The inclusion of natural catalysts isn’t just a psychological benefit in this case, it also forms the basis of iBio’s superior production and scale capabilities.
Still, IBIO stock is a risky gamble – you should never lose sight of this. But as a wild bet with “dumb money,” it’s also incredibly intriguing.
A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare. As of this writing, Josh Enomoto did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.