Shares of nanocap Heat Biologics (HTBX) have almost quadrupled over the last 10 days. While the overall market has been gripped by turmoil on account of the growing threat of the coronavirus, it has been kind to those fighting the battle against it spreading any further. Several names in the space have seen their valuations increase substantially since the virus was first reported, on account of the possibility of bringing to market vaccinations or treatments. Heat Biologics is one of the latest to make headway.
Last week the company announced that subsidiary Zolovax has formally launched a program to develop a vaccine for treating or preventing infection from SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus causing the current outbreak (COVID-19). The company has entered into a collaboration with the University of Miami to develop a gp96-based vaccine, and under the terms of the collaboration, the university will develop and test one or more vaccine constructs using the gp96 heat shock protein backbone.
Heat has also filed a provisional patent application covering the use of its gp96 vaccine platform for the treatment or prevention of SARS-CoV-2 virus infection.
The immunogenic properties of heat shock proteins are part of what makes Heat’s technology ideal in targeting the coronavirus. gp96, in particular, is different in that it can target both the innate and adaptive immune system arms. This means it can effectively target tumors, and in the coronavirus’ case, pathogens.
The company expects its novel approach will trigger a potent immune response, without the drawbacks of possible genomic integration of foreign DNA or the viral vector instability that can come with attenuated viral vaccines.
The platform’s potential has not gone unnoticed by Maxim’s Jason McCarthy. The analyst argues “the gp96 heatshock platform may be uniquely positioned to address COVID-19.” On top if its differentiated approach, McCarthy notes that perhaps most importantly, Heats’ gp96 platform has been used in over 300 people so far and is “already demonstrating activity preclinically against a number of viruses.” These include numerous NIH (National Institutes of Health) and DOD (U.S. Department of Defense)-funded preclinical trials, against HIV/SIV, malaria, Zika and other infectious diseases.
“The results demonstrated potent immune response and induction of mucosal immunity in animal models. Importantly, these studies have also demonstrated immunity in a number of organs including the lungs,” McCarthy noted.
As a results, McCarthy keeps his Buy rating on HTBX intact. The promising developments see the analyst raising his price target, which doubles from $1 to $2. The new figure implies upside potential of a hefty 174%. (To watch McCarthy’s track record, click here)
Over the last 3 months, no other analysts have thrown the hat in with a view on the promising biotech’s prospects. To find good ideas for biotech stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.