A crowded field

Investors should be wary of banking on AstraZeneca to emerge as the winner in the COVID-19 vaccine race just because it’s the apparent leader right now. Nearly 150 COVID-19 vaccine candidates are currently being researched. Seventeen of those are in clinical trials, with more on the way.

It’s impossible to know which, if any, of these experimental vaccines will be successful. It’s not out of the question — and perhaps even likely — that multiple drugmakers will eventually win regulatory approvals for their COVID-19 vaccines.

The biggest winners from an investing perspective could very well be the small biotech stocks in the race.Novavax, for example, has a phase 1/2 clinical study underway for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.BioNTech, like Moderna, is testing an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine with its partner, Pfizer.

AstraZeneca claims a market cap of nearly $70 billion. Success for its COVID-19 vaccine would definitely be a major catalyst for the stock. But success for a small drugmaker like Novavax or BioNTech would almost certainly be transformational for either company.

Keith Speights owns shares of Gilead Sciences and Pfizer. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Gilead Sciences. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.