KUALA LUMPUR (July 15): Shares of Pharmaniaga Bhd and Duopharma Biotech Bhd rose in active trade today after Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the companies will be undertaking the fill and finish processes for the Covid-19 vaccine, once a vaccine is developed.
Pharmaniaga was one of the top two gainers on Bursa Malaysia this morning, with its stock up by 46 sen or 20.4%. At the time of writing, it was trading at RM2.71 with 4.49 million shares changing hands.
Meanwhile, Duopharma rose 20 sen or 12.2% to RM1.83 with 11.3 million shares traded this morning.
Khairy told reporters at Parliament yesterday that Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has agreed for the facilities of the two companies to be utilised for that purpose, noting that the main challenge for the production of the vaccine is the finishing process.
"We will be purchasing the vaccine overseas, either from China, the US or the UK, in bulk, and we will be doing the bottling process here," he said.
Asked on the cost of investment needed to prepare and operate the fill and finish facilities, initial discussions with Pharmaniaga and Duopharma showed that there will be "minimal investment" needed, the minister noted.
When contacted on this, an analyst from a local research house who covers both stocks say the rise in stock prices is more "sentiment driven".
"This seems to be more of a knee jerk reaction to the news. Investors should take note that we still do not know when a vaccine will be found and safely rolled out to the masses. I have checked with medical experts and they are skeptical in terms of a viable vaccine coming into the market fast. So we are still in early stages of the vaccine with a question mark on the timing of mass production," said the analyst.
"How much earnings these companies can make from the Covid-19 vaccine still remains uncertain. There are many moving parts such as how expensive the vaccine will be to whether or not Malaysia has enough scale for the fill and finish process? Is the Malaysian market big enough or must these companies look to exporting the product in order to achieve scale in the longer run? Also, how the vaccine will be administered is also uncertain — is it just one dose or more than a dose? All these questions need to be considered. This is why I think the current rise to the stocks is more of a knee-jerk reaction," he added.
Meanwhile, a trained and licensed pharmacist highlighted several issues to consider in repacking bulk vaccines, such as contamination, efficacy, safety, and logistic liability.
"Anyway the process of producing the actual vaccine is more daunting and challenging than filling into vials... and will require a lot more time. We need to cross that bridge first [of producing the vaccine],” he told theedgemarkets.com.
Yesterday, US biotech firm Moderna said it would enter the final stage of its human trials for its Covid-19 vaccine on July 27, after promising early results were published in a journal.
Bloomberg noted that Asian stocks and US equity futures climbed Wednesday amid optimism that progress is being made in developing a defence against the coronavirus.
The FBM KLCI edged up in early trade Wednesday morning in line with the regional stocks and US equity futures that climbed higher on this optimism.
At 9.05am, the bellwether index added 0.88 points to 1,599.63; however, the local bourse has since declined to 1,595.69.