As you might expect, Bill Gates can’t stand viruses. Yet it’s not malware or Trojan Horses that have earned his ire these days.
Instead, Gates is focused on the kinds of bugs that cause infectious diseases — like malaria, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS. Along with his wife Melinda, Gates has left Microsoft behind and since devoted his life to delivering new vaccines to the countries ravaged by these and other diseases.
And unlike a lot of other "big" names, this power couple doesn’t just prattle on about these problems when the spotlights are turned up. Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, they actually work to search for cure and treatment for them — both on the ground and with the power of their personal fortune.
So it wasn’t that surprising last week when Bill and Melinda pledged $10 billion over the next decade to help develop and deliver vaccines for the world’s poorest countries. And that donation is on top of a previous $4.5 billion gift.
But as they say in their foundation’s mission statement: "We take risks, make big bets, and move with urgency. We are in it for the long haul."
Meanwhile, by Gates’ own calculation, his own good works and those of others could save as many as eight million children by 2020 if those efforts eventually hit full stride.
"Vaccines" Melinda Gates says, "are a miracle — with just a few doses, they can prevent deadly diseases for a lifetime."
Vaccines Boost the Biotech Bull Market
However, that revelation is not one that is unique to Bill and Melinda. On the contrary, new vaccine development has become the fastest growing segment of the new biotech bull market.
In fact, while prescription drug sales are forecast to rise by 30% over the next five years, vaccine sales will likely more than double — from $19 billion in 2008 to over $39 billion in 2013.
That’s five times the $8 billion in vaccine sales in 2004…
What’s more, says Emilio Emini, head of vaccine research at Pfizer, "Even if a small portion of everything that’s going on now is successful in the next 10 years it’s going to be characterized as a golden era."
Needless to say, that’s a far cry from the days when English physician Edward Jenner first noticed that dairymaids who had cowpox had an immunity to smallpox. Testing that premise, it was Jenner who extracted fluid from a blister on a dairymaid and injected an 8-year old boy with it — and the very first vaccination was born.
And sure enough, that little boy, James Phipps, never got smallpox either; this gave way to an entirely new technique to prevent infectious diseases.
A little over 200 years later, those same techniques are now looked upon by Big Pharma as an essential path to growth, since generic competition, shrinking pipelines, and the shadow of a health care overhaul have put a dark cloud on future sales…
Ground-Breaking Vaccine Stocks
As a result, big companies like GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) have ramped up vaccine production and are building new vaccine plants to support the possibility of several more drugs. After producing just one vaccine in 1997, Glaxo now sells 30 vaccines worldwide and is currently developing 20 more.
And why not?
With vaccines like Prevnar and Gardasil bringing in sales of $2.7 billion and $2.3 billion respectively in 2008, vaccines have become a major new growth area in the biotech industry — something of a bull market within a bull market.
And it goes without saying that even small successes on some vaccines in development — particularly for Alzheimer’s, AIDS, and various cancers — would likely bring in untold billions more is sales.
What’s more — as I discussed in an earlier article — new provisions in the health care bill would give developers of ground-breaking biotech vaccines as much as 24 years of statutory protection from generic competition. Currently, that patent protection lasts for only eight years.
That’s why companies like Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN) can jump by 1,049% in the blink of an eye on positive clinical studies.
Take a look:
That’s what happened last spring when the news broke that its lead drug, Provenge, cut the death rate from prostate cancer by a mere 20% (around 5,500 per year). The drug uses a patient’s own cells to prompt the body to fight the disease, leading many to call it a vaccine even though it is given as a treatment rather than a preventive.
Even still, if finally approved by the FDA on May 1, sales of the vaccine could easily exceed $1 billion in short order.
But the larger truth is that drugs like Prevnar, Gardisil, and Provenge are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to biotech vaccines…
Headed down the pike is a third generation of vaccines that holds the kind of promise that will make early investors small fortunes.
They are called DNA vaccines, and not surprisingly, Bill and Linda Gates have been funding some of the research for these groundbreaking new treatments for years now. In fact, I’ll explain how these new vaccines have the power to change the medical landscape in next week’s article.
As for PC Guy, during a week when Steve Jobs had the ear of the tech world with the iPad, Gates actually trounced his counterpart in matters of much greater weight.
You can decide for yourself which endeavor is more important… but my money is on Bill Gates.
Your bargain-hunting analyst,
Steve Christ, Investment Director
The Wealth Advisory