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15 Dec, 2020 06:50

Pandemic profiteers: Big Pharma & Big Tech cash in on Covid-19

Pandemic profiteers: Big Pharma & Big Tech cash in on Covid-19

The coronavirus outbreak has left millions out of work and many bankruptcies in its wake, but pandemic misery for some is a gold mine for others.

Swiss biotech firm Relief Therapeutics, which hopes to repurpose its two decades-old medicine known as aviptadil or RLF-100 against Covid-19, saw its stock price soar 40,000 percent this year on the domestic stock exchange. Before the virus started wreaking havoc across the globe at the beginning of 2020, it was trading at 0.001 Swiss francs per share.

Its stock hit the historic peak of 0.8 Swiss francs per share in August, after the Geneva-based drug company and its US-Israeli partner NeuroRx announced that critically ill Covid-19 patients recovered rapidly from respiratory failure after three days of treatment with RLF-100. While investor interest has partly waned since then, company stock jumped 400-fold this year.

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The Swiss firm is not the only company that saw exponential growth. Shares of pharmaceutical companies, which have been racing to get the much-needed coronavirus vaccine, also rose, but at a “slower” pace. For example, shares of American vaccine maker Novavax skyrocketed over 3,000 percent this year, eclipsing another US drug developer, Moderna, which gained over 700 percent.

German biotechnology company BioNTech, which developed a vaccine together with Pfizer, rose as much as 250 percent this year, while the US partner’s stock added just five percent over the same period. 

Another developer, Vaxart, is working on a vaccine in pill form instead of a shot. Despite concerns that an oral vaccine would fail to take its share of the market from industry giants, its stock still rallied over 2,000 percent. 

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Big pharma is not the only sphere that is attracting investors. The tech sector and services that kept people from getting bored and delivered essentials also won big. While many retailers and those working in the service sector went bust, the likes of Amazon, Facebook and Netflix had double-digit returns.

Even those services that were less popular before the pandemic saw big returns. For instance, the stock price of video chat service Zoom, that connected millions of people that were forced to work and study from home, rallied over 470 percent this year.

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