Alexion Pharmaceuticals (ALXN) stock rose yesterday based on a rare and counterintuitive drug called Soliris to treat coronavirus. However, ALXN is currently down in pre-market trading. The drug blocks part of the immune system at a time when conventional wisdom says that the immune system must be fully charged to whip the virus.
Soliris is currently used to treat a rare neuromuscular disorder and a blindness-causing side effect of multiple sclerosis.
“I really think we’ve got something here,” said Dr. Tom Pitts, who over the past ten days has been a one-person evangelist for giving Soliris a tryout against COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
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The common theme of these diseases is a hyperimmune response. A set of so-called “complement proteins” come together to form a shield called a membrane attack complex. “In medical school, we call it ‘the great MAC,'” Pitts said of the initial detection of the immune system of a foreign invader. The scout protein recruits the other proteins as necessary, but subsequent recruits join to form the MAC and kill everything in its path.
“It simply devastates the landscape in the process of killing the virus,” Pitts said.
But Soliris is designed to fight the invader but suppresses the proteins that form the MAC.
Just two weekends ago, Pitts realized that Soliris could have an impact on the virus, and by February 28, his clinical trial of the drug was listed on Clinicaltrials.gov, a federal government information exchange center for Tens of thousands of human studies of medications, devices, and diagnoses.
The study appears along with dozens of trials sponsored by hospitals in China, many of them with remdesivir from Gilead, based in Foster City (NASDAQ: GILD). Other companies that take coronavirus vaccines include the Cambridge-based vaccine developer, Massachusetts Modern Inc. (NASDAQ: MRNA), and Vir Biotechnology Inc. of San Francisco (NASDAQ: VIR).
The advantage of Soliris from a medical and commercial point of view is that it is approved by the Food and Drug Administration and could be offered to patients with COVID-19 immediately in hospital emergency rooms.
The Pitts study would also include blood draws from people with the most severe form of COVID-19, making those samples a potential partner at Columbia University so that the antibodies they produce against the virus can be used to develop a vaccine.
However, Pitts is not as atypical as he thinks. Alexion is in talks with the Advanced Biomedical Research and Development Authority of the US Department of Health and Human Services. UU., The Department of Defense and others on the possible use of Soliris in patients with COVID-19.
Should You Buy Alexion Pharmaceutical (ALXN) Stock?
Like many investors, I am a bit overwhelmed with the number of coronavirus stock options and not sure if I should buy ALXN stock. The stock has been in a bearish trend and is down -29.34% vs. -10.65% for SPX. The one-day technicals are incredibly negative and point to a strong sell. Bottom line, I would recommend adding ALXN to my stock watch list, but wouldn’t plan on buying it anytime soon.