Profiting from Ebola

BY TAI CHISHAKWE - OCTOBER 23, 2014

The current Ebola outbreak, in West Africa – the worst outbreak in human history, may have sparked panic and fear among communities especially in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone where it has killed many and infected more, but it has also promised a huge payday for some investors and companies in the right sectors.

It’s almost the gold rush again as investors in some corners of the stock market are hedging their bets against which company will be the first to find an Ebola vaccine.

Which are these companies?

In Canada, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation, which is based in Vancouver, has reportedly seen significant growth since the first case of Ebola was reported in March in Guinea.

According to ibtimes.com, stock prices on Tekmira jumped “62 percent between March 3 and March 11, when the outbreak first began.”

The stocks have since been up 350 percent from below US$7 at this time last year. This is because Tekmira signed a US$140 million contract with the US Department of Defense four years ago to develop a treatment, called TKM-Ebola.

TKM-Ebola is leading in the race for possible experimental use.

Last year October, Tekmira had a market capitalization of US$65 million; fast-forward to today, it is now capped around US$736 million according to marketwatch.com.

In August, US company, BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, which is based in Durham, North Carolina, received a US$4.1 million award in federal research funds from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to boost its efforts to develop an experimental Ebola treatment drug known as BCX4430.

Early in October, businessinsider.com revealed that BioCryst shares were up more than 14 percent in after-hours trading. Ycarts.com reported BioCryst’s market cap was at US$88 billion last July and in October was at an astounding $918 billion.

Another US company set to make it big is NewLink Genetics, which reportedly has an exclusive license to an experimental Ebola vaccine developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada. CNN Money reported in October that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently “gave approval for Phase 1 clinical trials on the drug.”

Its subsidiary, BioProtection Systems Corporate, announced a US$1 million contract with the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) for research on an Ebola vaccine.

According to ibtimes.com, the company’s stock prices jumped 34 percent from September.

US-based Sarepta Therapeutics, which has a reputation for developing treatment for rare diseases, saw its stock jumped 8 percent in after-hours trading in October following the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) announcement of an Ebola case in the US.

The company revealed to CNBC on the same day that it has enough doses to handle about 100 patients.

Another US pharmaceutical company, Hemispherx Biopharma, announced plans to expand research on potential Ebola treatments to five institutional collaborators, including a branch of the National Institutes of Health and the US Army Research Institute in Infectious Disease (USAMRIID).

The company’s shares soared 15 percent in October following the CDC’s announcement and the company’s own expansion plans.

Shares for US company, Lakeland Industries, which makes protective clothing, including Hazmat suits, gained almost 30 percent in early October. Lakeland stock has been climbing since the first case of Ebola in the US was confirmed.

Everyone has a chance to make some money

It’s not only pharmaceutical companies that are betting on a huge payday out of the current Ebola outbreak.

A Las Vegas-based entrepreneur, Jon Schultz, is hoping to laugh all the way to the bank if he manages to sell his domain – Ebola.com.

Schultz bought Ebola.com in 2008 and now believes he can sell it for US$150 000.

The businessman, who monitors a number of 'disease domains' from his home in Las Vegas, also owns birdflu.com and H1N1.com, as well a domain for the deadly mosquito-borne disease Chikungunya and another for the Ebola-like Marburg virus.

He paid US$13 500 for his Ebola domain four years ago and has been waiting for the right moment to sell. However, he reportedly wants to sell soon as he is worried something may 'ameliorate' outbreak.

There is no doubt, every other company and investor along the supply chain -  from transport, banks, food, construction, supplies etc, will be smiling as the world raises more money in an effort to end the Ebola outbreak.

Image: nbcnews