We have stayed out of stock trades of companies whose stock has moved directly related to new vaccine and therapeutic activities related to Coronavirus because we try to stay out of hype trades. We are digging deeper into opportunities for companies who have had success in developing therapies and vaccines for viruses. For example, we are watching Novavax's expected report out later this month of its phase 3 trial for its latest attempt at an influenza vaccine. You can find more information about this readout by searching our Catalyst Database or on our NanoFlu/influenza page. Novavax is one of the vaccine companies starting to develop a vaccine to the current Coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. However, the company has not had great success with its vaccine development and unless our deeper diligence tells us otherwise, we only have a small investment in NVAX in one of our accounts.
With respect to the broader market, every stock has been affected by the current Coronavirus pandemic. For the markets and more importantly, world health, it would be excellent if the warm humid months ahead in the Northern hemisphere give us a break from the pandemic. That would give our biotech community more time to develop vaccines and test treatments before the next outbreak season.
It is known that influenza outbreaks are seasonal. This paper by Lowen et al. 2014 in the Journal of Virology, sums it up this way: "Epidemiological analyses, spurred by experimental data on influenza virus transmission and stability, have identified absolute humidity and temperature as climatic predictors of influenza epidemics in temperate regions of the world. Transmission experiments using the guinea pig model indicate that the association between these environmental factors and influenza seasonality is due to their impact on the efficiency of respiratory droplet transmission."
Here is a helpful figure from their paper:
With respect to Coronaviruses, one of the closest known viruses to the current SARS-CoV-2 is the Coronavirus, SARS CoV, which was the causative agent for the 2003 pandemic. Wu et al. (2020) compare the highly related genomes of SARS-CoV-2 and SARS CoV. They map out the 380 amino acid substitutions between SARS-CoV-2 and the SARS CoV graphically for example. From my initial research, it appears that, like influenza, SARS CoV is temperature and humidity sensitive. Here is the conclusion of a study by Chan et al. 2011:
"In this study, we showed that high temperature at high relative humidity has a synergistic effect on inactivation of SARS CoV viability while lower temperatures and low humidity support prolonged survival of virus on contaminated surfaces."
Here's a helpful figure from that publication:
Here is a map of the 2003 SARS outbreak:
The 2003 epidemic hit in 2003 but ended with the last community transmitted case in July of that year (see this article from European Centers for Disease Prevention And Control). There were some close-contact relative cases in 2004, but apparently no community transmissions since 2003, as this U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) page confirms. Wilder-Smith et al. in Lancet, reported "SARS was eventually contained by means of syndromic surveillance, prompt isolation of patients, strict enforcement of quarantine of all contacts, and in some areas community-level quarantine. By interrupting all human-to-human transmission, SARS was effectively eradicated." The authors go on to discuss the differences between SARS 2003 pandemic and the current Coronavirus pandemic that may make the present situation different than the SARS 2003 pandemic.
It would be tremendous if the current Coronavirus pandemic follows this same pattern of eradication, or at least heat/humidity sensitivity. Regarding the current Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), I took a look at maps of the most affected countries and compared them to global maps of seasonal temperatures from December to January. To me, these maps suggest that maybe we are seeing a temperature sensitivity pattern emerging for this current Coronavirus outbreak. See below.
Here is a view of these images side-by-side.
Seems to me that there may be an emergence of a belt of highest prevalence in regions that have a cold January-February winter in the upper middle/norther hemisphere. Essentially, all the highest prevalence countries fall into the green and yellow sections of the heat map. What do you think? Time will tell if this is wishful thinking or reality.
Clearly, it's too early to tell whether there is a temperature/humidity sensitivity to SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks. We will have to monitor this at it develops. Hopefully, if we can't contain the virus through quarantines and lifestyle changes, seasonal temperature and humidity increases in summer months will give biotechnology more time to find treatments and develop vaccines. Time will tell.
Emanuel "Manny" Vacchiano, J.D., PhD