AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN) has, unsurprisingly, been largely immune to the 2020 stock market crash. When we’re in a pandemic, pharmaceuticals companies can look nicely defensive to investors. As a result, the AstraZeneca share price has gained more than 10% year-to-date, while the FTSE 100 has lost 20%
AstraZeneca has been making headlines this week, largely thanks to Donald Trump. The company is developing a Covid-19 vaccine in partnership with Oxford University. And the the US President is reportedly keen to get his hands on it ahead of the upcoming election. That would mean bypassing the FDA’s usual regulatory requirements and awarding emergency use authorisation for the vaccine, based on studies done in the UK.
Let’s not get too excited
But the Oxford and AstraZeneca researchers are pouring cold water on the story. They’ve denied they’re in any talks with the Trump administration. And UK trials to date are said to be too small to provide the needed data. In addition, the UK government has already earmarked early vaccine supplies for domestic use. So don’t get your hopes up of big US profits boosting the AstraZeneca share price any time soon.
In other news, AstraZeneca has commenced a new phase 1 trial. It involves a combination of two monoclonal antibodies for the prevention and treatment of Covid-19. But the trial will be a small one, covering just 48 healthy individuals aged between 18 and 55. It’s really just a safety trial at this stage.
Is this good for investors?
So what does all this say to investors? I think we can take mixed messages from it. Firstly, we’re not going to see blockbuster drug profits from Covid-19 vaccines. At least not while the pandemic is still on, and drugs firms have pledged to keep costs down. The AstraZeneca share price is not going to be boosted by big vaccine profits this year.
But looking at the wider picture, AstraZeneca could be on a path to significant longer-term profits. Firms are pushing vaccine research way harder than usual, with government financial support, and are fast-tracking developments. The progress that’s likely to be made by the end of 2021 could well have taken five years or more if we were facing less of an emergency.
And it’s looking less and less like Covid-19 will be a ‘vaccinate once and it will go away’ virus. Countries have already reported different strains, and strong immunity is far from guaranteed. I think there’s every chance we could end up with a similar situation to influenza, with new vaccines needed annually. Only they’ll be a lot more urgent.
The AstraZeneca share price in 10 years
The knowledge gained from pioneering new techniques will surely benefit AstraZeneca in the long run. And it could help to seriously beef up the firm’s immunology pipeline in the coming years.
In short, I’m not seeing a get-rich-quick opportunity based on Covid-19 research. But I am seeing ever more reason to invest in AstraZeneca for the long term. I really think the AstraZeneca share price could do very well over the next decade.
Alan Oscroft has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.