The moral of “The Tortoise and the Hare” fable is that slow and steady can win the race. Victory, in Ocugen’s (NASDAQ:OCGN) case, is U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for Covaxin in the United States. However, if you’re investing in OCGN stock, you have to wonder: is that exactly what victory looks like? And how much upside will it give the stock?
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Covaxin is a Covid-19 vaccine candidate manufactured by Bharat Biotech. Ocugen has an agreement with Bharat in which it will oversee the approval, manufacturing and distribution of Covaxin in the U.S. and Canada. However, it plans to sell just 100 million doses of Covaxin in the United States.
This presents investors with a mostly binary calculation. Do you believe that the Bharat Biotech vaccine — which is a more traditional vaccine candidate — will become the standard for Covid-19 vaccinations moving forward? Or, do you believe that the war against Covid can be over by the time Ocugen even wins its battle?
Why OCGN Stock Has a Slim Chance
OCGN stock got a nice boost on Feb. 15 when the results of a Harris Poll were released. The poll, which was conducted on behalf of Ocugen, found that 73% of Americans wanted additional, more traditional Covid-19 vaccines. Covaxin is a viral vector-based vaccine that is most similar to the Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) vaccine.
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This is a specific reaction against the Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) vaccines that use messenger RNA (mRNA). Their vaccines are some of the first major cases of the technology being used.
The results of the poll also showed that, by a significant percentage, a more traditional vaccine would alleviate parental hesitancy in having their children of all ages vaccinated. However, with each passing day, week and month, the U.S. and the world in general are moving towards an endemic stage of this virus regardless.
Are We Pulling the Troops?
I recently heard a doctor remark that, while we still need to be vigilant about Covid, there is no need to remain on a war footing. While a bit hyperbolic, I think this is a pretty apt description. And in all likelihood, we have the virus itself to thank for that.
The omicron variant has been the most highly contagious strain of Covid-19. When it swept through our communities, it seemed like everyone was testing positive, regardless of vaccination status. In fact, one of the marked differences with this variant was the number and rate of breakthrough infections (i.e., individuals contracting the virus even after receiving two or in some cases three doses of the vaccine).
However this, by many accounts, seems to have conferred society a degree of natural immunity. Don’t get me wrong — plenty more data needs to be collected. This is anecdotal. What’s more, any potential natural immunity also doesn’t mean future vaccines are done for. Even in an endemic stage, vaccines are needed, particularly for the immunocompromised.
Still, if the Covid vaccine becomes more like a flu shot, the amount of vaccines needed may also significantly drop, particularly as more therapeutics enter the market. This means that, unless a new and more virulent strain of Covid appears, OCGN stock is looking more and more like a risky bet.
You Can Wait on Ocugen
I understand the appeal of speculating on OCGN stock. Trading around the $3.40 level at the time of this writing, the biotech stock is now in penny territory. And if Covaxin gets approved, Ocugen can shed the label of a “pre-revenue” company. That alone would be a catalyst for shares.
However, generating meaningful revenue from its Covid-19 vaccine is looking more and more like a fairy tale. Therefore, as an investment, I would look for answers in the rest of the company’s pipeline, which is mostly comprised of gene therapy treatments for rare eye diseases.
Currently, none of these treatments in Ocugen’s pipeline are in clinical trials (several are in pre-clinical trials). As such, with nothing to report there for some time, OCGN stock may have further to drop.
On the date of publication, Chris Markoch did not hold (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
Chris Markoch is a freelance financial copywriter who has been covering the market for over five years. He has been writing for InvestorPlace since 2019.
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