The coronavirus has been roiling global markets for a month now, and there are few reasons to anticipate the outbreak will slow any time soon.
After a few days of reports showing the number of new cases of COVID-19—the official name for the virus—was slowing down, China said Thursday that it had confirmed 15,152 new cases of the novel virus, raising the total in Hubei province by 45% overnight, and an additional 254 deaths after it updated its diagnosis methodology.
With this surge in new cases, the number of confirmed cases worldwide now exceeds 65,000 and the death toll is now nearly 1,500.
The standard way to confirm that a patient has the deadly virus is slow and has been missing patients in early stages of the disease. That China’s new diagnostic methods have turned up such a drastic number of new cases is certainly troubling, but it also reinforces the incredible need for a cure to be found.
Several pharmaceuticals and biotechs—including AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV), Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: INO), Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA), and Novavax (NASDAQ: NVAX)—have said they are working on vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, and all that have have seen their share prices boosted as a result.
But according to Newton Advisors founder Mark Newton, one company working on a treatment for the disease looks especially attractive from a technical perspective: Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD).
“Gilead broke out last week,” Newton said on CNBC on Monday. “Gilead Sciences is up to new six-week highs on an explosion of volume last week. We saw the call open interest jump over 88%.”
“This stock had been going down and had been cut in half really since 2015 then moving sideways,” Newton said. “This little breakout last week is very interesting to me technically from a risk-reward standpoint.”
Newton also argued that Gilead shares could see a boost given that the company has a drug that is showing promise in the treatment of the coronavirus.
There have been 77 registered clinical trials for a vaccine for COVID-19 in China since the end of January, and the study of Gilead’s experimental antiviral drug remdesivir is arguably the highest profile among them.
Gilead’s remdesivir was first developed to treat Ebola, but has shown signs of potency against the SARS and MERS viruses and is now being tested at a hospital in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the city where the virus originated, after a patient with the coronavirus in the U.S. appeared to respond well to the treatment.
While the drug’s effectiveness against COVID-19 is still under investigation, scientists in China who have tested it in labs have filed an application to patent its use against the virus.
“Gilead seems to be now among the front-runners in developing a treatment for Coronavirus,” wrote Citi analyst Mohit Bansal in a note last week. “We could see commercial opportunity for GILD in longer term as well since typically countries stockpile such drugs to safeguard against future outbreaks.”
Joule Financial President Quint Tatro noted that the fundamentals also back up the case for buying Gilead.
“I was really surprised when I started digging into Gilead just today – surprised so much that I had to pick up some shares for our firm today,” Tatro said. “The stock is trading 11 times forward [earnings] and has very impressive earnings growth, and most importantly… is generating over $6 a share in free cash flow with a dividend.”
“From a valuation standpoint, we like this stock quite a bit, started a position, and will be digging in to the [fundamentals] further,” Tatro added.