Written by: Candra Feng
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of our lives in many ways. It has caused all of us across the world to alter our timelines, lifestyles, and perspectives. Much of our hope for returning to some kind of normalcy is now placed in finding a vaccine as soon as possible. With this in mind, this post will focus on exploring how COVID-19 has affected sentiment toward the pharmaceutical industry by honing in on Inovio Pharmaceuticals, a leader in the race to find a vaccine.
In August 2019, Gallup Poll found that the pharmaceutical industry is the most disliked industry in America (Fortune). Many dislike this industry because companies in this area can be seen as “too powerful and too profitable to keep in check (AJMC).” But now amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, finding a vaccine is seen to be of paramount importance. Prudential Financial’s Chief Market Strategist, Quincy Krosby shared how a vaccine “is crucial and will be the most important inflection point in the market (CNBC).” Pharmaceutical companies, researchers, and scientists are now racing to find a vaccine.
Main companies at the forefront of this current vaccine race include Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer, and Inovio. Leaders in producing therapies for COVID-19 symptoms include Gilead Sciences, Regeneron & Sanofi, and Eli Lilly (CNBC).
After much research, I found it exciting that The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is backing many pharmaceutical companies to help in this race (Inovio). I decided to focus my sentiment analysis on Inovio Pharmaceuticals because this is one of the companies The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is supporting and Inovio’s vaccine candidate seems promising. (Note: According to Inovio’s news release on 4/28/2020, Inovio’s COVID-19 DNA vaccine INO-4800 is currently in Phase 1/2a.)
About INOVIO Pharmaceuticals
For some background on INOVIO Pharmaceuticals from the company website:
“Inovio is a biotechnology company focused on rapidly bringing to market precisely designed DNA medicines to treat, cure, and protect people from diseases associated with HPV, cancer, and infectious diseases…Also in development are…externally funded vaccine development programs in Zika, MERS, Lassa, HIV, and COVID-19.”
Some of their partners and collaborators to highlight are The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), University of Pennsylvania, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and The Wistar Institute.
On 3/3/2020, Inovio had a press release sharing an accelerated timeline for the company’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate INO-4800. This release placed Inovio as a forerunner in the vaccine race, led to a jump in the company’s stock price, and increased Google searches for “Inovio” (Yahoo Finance, Google Trends).
With this in mind, I wanted to perform sentiment analysis on Inovio Pharmaceuticals to see how attitudes toward the company may have shifted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine race. To do this, I utilized a Youtube API and the tuber package on RStudio to generate sentiment analysis (positive, neutral, and negative) on the comments from Youtube videos relating to Inovio Pharmaceuticals. I focused on 3 videos for each category: pre-COVID (before 2020) and post-COVID (during 2020). In selecting the Youtube videos, I tried to focus on videos with the most comments and views. (Note: Pre-COVID videos generally had less comments than post-COVID, as Inovio was not as popular before.)
Here are pie charts showing what I found:
Pre-COVID Pie Charts of Sentiment Analysis
Post-COVID Pie Charts of Sentiment Analysis
Here are bar charts showing what I found:
Pre-COVID Bar Charts of Sentiment Analysis
Post-COVID Bar Charts of Sentiment Analysis
Looking at these charts, it looks like pre-COVID sentiments toward Inovio are more negatively skewed and post-COVID sentiments are more positively skewed. This is what I expected to see, as this also parallels the rise in stock price and Google searches for Inovio post-COVID. Of course, these charts and Youtube videos are just a snapshot of overall sentiment toward Inovio and the pharmaceutical industry as a whole, but it is powerful to visualize this shift in sentiment that seems to be occurring. After all, much of our hope now is in finding a vaccine for COVID-19.
As Fortune points to in the article Big Pharma has the chance to come to the world’s rescue, the COVID-19 pandemic may offer the pharmaceutical industry a chance to finally “show off its power to innovate.” I am eager to follow the progress of Inovio’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate INO-4800 and progress across the larger pharmaceutical field to fight against this virus together. For such a time is this!
About the Author
Candra Feng hails from the beautiful city of Austin, Texas. She is currently a senior at the University of Pennsylvania studying Healthcare Management and Operations. Following graduation, she will be heading to IQVIA in San Francisco to work as a healthcare consultant. This particular topic “Focusing on Pharma: Inovio COVID-19 Sentiment Analysis” excites her because she has interned at a pharmaceutical company before and will be working with biotech and pharmaceutical clients in her upcoming job.