This new vaccine market could be bigger for Ocugen than the United States
Ocugen‘s (NASDAQ: OCGN) stocks have jumped 700% year-to-date to a high in February. The reason for the enthusiasm? The company has signed an agreement to co-commercialize the coronavirus vaccine close to Bharat Biotech’s market in the United States. Currently, Bharat’s Covaxin is involved in phase 3 trials in India.
But Ocugen gave up some gains. In fact, its shares are down more than 40% from that February high. Investors are worried about how much vaccine Ocugen and Bharat could sell in the United States, which has so many doses that it has started distributing them.
Last week, however, Ocugen announced an extension of his agreement with Bharat. It can now co-market Covaxin in Canada as well. Could this additional market be a victory for Ocugen? Let’s find out.
The regulatory table
First of all, let’s keep in mind a crucial point. US and Canadian regulators have yet to clear Covaxin, so any potential success will depend on positive regulatory decisions. Ocugen has submitted a master file to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and will seek emergency use authorization this month. The company said it would “simultaneously” apply for an emergency clearance in Canada.
The rollout of vaccination in Canada has not been particularly smooth. The country does not produce its own vaccines and has therefore relied on importing doses. And there he is faced with a lack of supply.
All this seems to give way to a latecomer. Or does he do it? Canada’s problem is not with the lack of vaccines ordered; the country’s contracts with suppliers include options for as much as 400 million doses. The problem was the shipping and delivery of the doses. Currently, about 50% of the Canadian population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, but only 4.6% of the population is fully immunized.
Ocugen could gain market share here if it manages to make Canada a priority and deliver doses faster than its competitors. This could happen if Covaxin were available immediately. If regulators wait to offer approval for Covaxin for a few months, Canada may not need additional doses. The delivery of vaccines to the country has improved in recent weeks. To date, over 27 million doses of vaccine have been distributed in Canada (a number that reflects only two-dose vaccines). The country’s population is around 38 million.
That said, Canada has shown that it is open to ordering from many suppliers, rather than sticking to just a few. The country has ordered doses from seven companies so far. If Canadian regulators accept Covaxin, the country may place an order for doses of it. Even if this order was for next year, that would be great news for Ocugen.
What does this mean for investors?
Canada is not a bigger market in terms of population – after all, the United States has over 330 million people. But Canada could represent more opportunities for Ocugen; it may be easier for the latecomer to carve out a slice here than in the United States. The deployment of the vaccine in the United States has gone rather well and the country has many doses of the vaccine. It’s easy to imagine the United States ordering from their current suppliers Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & johnson Next year.
Ocugen’s decision to extend his collaboration agreement with Bharat to Canada is a good one. Relying on one market – the United States – for income was very risky. Yet I’m not convinced that even the two markets put together are enough to make Ocugen’s move to vaccines very profitable. Dominant players today are already offering their vaccines to younger age groups and say the boosters to handle the variants are almost ready. To gain significant market share – in Canada or the United States – Ocugen will have to stand out in one way or another. And at the moment, it’s unclear how Covaxin can set itself apart from rival vaccines.
Ocugen stocks are currently a favorite with high-risk, short-term investors, and with any positive news we may see more gains. But given the above points and the 380% rise in Ocugen’s share price since the start of the year, it’s not the best choice for a long-term portfolio right now. I’d rather watch this coronavirus vaccine player from the sidelines.
This article represents the opinion of the author, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a premium Motley Fool consulting service. We are motley! Challenging an investment thesis – even one of our own – helps us all to think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.