Here’s the Coronavirus Vaccine Maker That’s Most Likely to Blow Past Pfizer and Moderna

We’ve seen over the past 11 days that Pfizer and Moderna are, without question, the clear leaders in the coronavirus vaccine race. Last week, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech announced great efficacy results for their COVID-19 vaccine candidate BNT162b2. Earlier this week, Moderna followed up with its own fantastic efficacy results for experimental coronavirus vaccine mRNA-1273.

These companies are on track to soon file for U.S. emergency use authorization (EUA). And their chances of winning EUA appear to be quite good. Both BNT162b2 and mRNA-1273 could become available to the first wave of Americans by the end of the year.

While Pfizer and Moderna are the leaders now, that doesn’t mean they’ll maintain the position indefinitely. Here’s the coronavirus vaccine maker that’s most likely to blow past both of these drugmakers.

Running close behind

Two companies are running close behind Pfizer and Moderna. AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) are also evaluating coronavirus vaccine candidates in late-stage testing in the U.S. 

AstraZeneca expects to announce its late-stage results by the end of 2020. The big drugmaker likely could have reported those results even sooner, but its U.S. study was delayed for a few weeks after a participant in the company’s U.K. study of its COVID-19 vaccine experienced an unexplained illness. AstraZeneca’s U.S. clinical trial has since resumed.

Johnson & Johnson also had a temporary pause for its late-stage coronavirus vaccine study due to a potential safety issue. An investigation determined that the issue wasn’t related to J&J’s experimental vaccine, though, and the study moved forward. J&J hasn’t indicated when it expects to announce initial results from its late-stage study, although sometime in early 2021 seems likely.

The great efficacy results for Pfizer and Moderna could bode well for both AstraZeneca and J&J. Pfizer’s and Moderna’s experimental vaccines use modified messenger RNA (mRNA) to instruct the ribosomes in cells to produce proteins that mirror the spike protein on the surface of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. AstraZeneca and J&J use a different approach, where adenoviruses (which are a leading cause of the common cold) deliver DNA that contains instructions for building a copy of the coronavirus spike protein.

In theory, at least, the adenovirus DNA approach could deliver similar efficacy as the mRNA approach used by Pfizer and Moderna. It’s too soon to know if that will be the case, though. J&J has stated that it’s modeling for 70% efficacy, but thinks the actual level could be higher.

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