The R&D World Index (RDWI) for the week ending February 26, 2021 closed at 4,362.18 for the 25 companies in the R&D World Index. The Index was down -2.84% (or -127.73 basis points) from the week ending February 19, 2021. The stock of six R&D World Index members gained value from 1.04% (Ford Motor) to 5.53% (Oracle). The stock of 19 R&D World Index members lost value from -0.01% (IBM) to -9.80% (Alibaba).
Clinical trials are the costliest and longest lead sections for the development of new drugs and vaccines. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this whole process even more complicated as participants in these clinical trials avoided public places and often stayed at home. Dublin, Ireland-based clinical trial operator Icon PLC last week said it would acquire rival PRA Health Sciences, Raleigh, North Carolina, for $12 billion to create one of the largest contract research organizations for these services which are outsourced by pharmaceutical and biotech companies. With this acquisition, Icon will expand into new digital technologies that are being accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic effects. Icon assisted Pfizer/BioNTech SE in the testing of their coronavirus vaccine with about 1,000 researchers.
Taipei, Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group last week announced last week that it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with electric vehicle (EV) startup Fisker, Los Angeles, to assemble its new EVs. The MOU states a plan to produce up to 250,000 EVs per year. It’s likely that the assembly plant will be built in Wisconsin since Foxconn already has a factory there with a lot of room for expansion. Foxconn assembles cell phones for Apple and the Wisconsin plant was initially planned for production of liquid-crystal display systems.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week approved the emergency use of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine. J&J said it would be able to deliver 20 million doses of their vaccine by the end of March. The J&J vaccine has similar efficacies to the already U.S.-approved Pfizer/BioNTech SE and Moderna two-dose vaccines. Moderna last week announced that it had made an initial batch for a new vaccine designed to better protect patients against the South African COVID-19 variants now appearing throughout the U.S. Moderna has shipped the products to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct the first human studies which could start within weeks. Pfizer and J&J both have stated that they are in the process of tweaking their vaccines or working on boosters that better match the variants.
Canada also last week approved the emergency use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, produced by the Serum Institute of India. The AstraZeneca vaccine is currently in late-stage U.S. studies for the FDA.
President Biden issued an executive order (EO) last week directing a broad review of supply chains for critical materials, including semiconductor devices, pharmaceuticals and rare earth minerals. The EO was aimed at spurring domestic development of semiconductor chips for automotive production, which has stalled current production lines. Industry analysts pointed out that Increased U.S. production of these materials, however, is a long-term process that takes several years to improve.
RDWI-member Microsoft and Belgium-based biopharmaceutical company UCB announced last week that they have entered into a multi-year strategic collaboration to advance the digitalization of UCB’s products and accelerate its research efforts. The companies have already been working together on the COVID Moonshot project, which aimed to create an orally available antiviral to combat the SARS-COV-2 coronavirus. UCB stated that they completed six months of computational screening and compound design in just three days using the combined Microsoft-UCB technology. Researchers used Microsoft’s Azure cloud-based platform for this work. The new collaboration will utilize artificial intelligence (AI), advanced computing power, and science to accelerate this development.
Researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO) continue to investigate the sources and mechanics of the first COVID-19 patients (Patient Zero) in and around Wuhan, China. WHO researchers plan to publish the results of their initial investigations, which included trips to Wuhan, within the next several weeks. The investigators have already stated that the initial patients had connections to other food markets than in Wuhan (Wuhan, itself has about 400 food markets).
While the U.S. processes the results from three COVID-19 vaccines and other countries process their vaccines from multiple sources, a call for verification of inoculation is being made by governmental bodies. The U.K. government recently said it would consider if Britons would need proof of vaccination to visit bars or return to their workplaces. Saudi Arabia and Iceland now issue an app-based health passport for international travel. President Biden has also issued EOs to assess the feasibility of creating digital COVID-19 vaccination certificates.
R&D World’s R&D Index is a weekly stock market summary of the top international companies involved in R&D. The top 25 industrial R&D spenders in 2019 were selected based on the latest listings from Schonfeld & Associates’ June 2020 R&D Ratios & Budgets. These 25 companies include pharmaceutical (10 companies), automotive (6 companies) and ICT (9 companies) who invested a cumulative total of nearly 260 billion dollars in R&D in 2019, or approximately 10% of all the R&D spent in the world by government, industries and academia combined, according to R&D World’s 2021 Global R&D Funding Forecast. The stock prices used in the R&D World Index are tabulated from NASDAQ. NYSE, and OTC common stock prices for the companies selected at the close of stock trading business on the Friday preceding the online publication of the R&D World Index.