Shares of biotechnology company Novavax (NVAX) - Get Novavax, Inc. Report surged more than 40% on Tuesday after it said it has been selected to deliver up to 100 million doses of the company’s late-stage Covid-19 vaccine candidate as part of the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed program.
The Gaithursburg, Maryland-based company said it has been awarded $1.6 billion by the federal government to complete late-stage clinical development of its NVX‑CoV2373 Covid-19 vaccine candidate as well as kick off large-scale manufacturing and delivery of the drug by 2021.
The vaccine, which focuses on boosting the body’s immune system to effectively combat a Covid-19 infection, is currently in phase 1 and phase 2 clinical trials in Australia, with preliminary results expected at the end of this month.
Novavax shares took off in May as after the company announced $388 million in funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to help scale up development of its vaccine candidate and “dramatically increase its large-scale manufacturing capacity.”
The additional $1.6 billion from Operation Warp Speed will be used to support a more widespread phase 3 trial as well as help the company prepare to stockpile and build out a distribution network for the drug, Novavax said.
“The pandemic has caused an unprecedented public health crisis, making it more important than ever that industry, government and funding entities join forces to defeat the novel coronavirus together,” CEO Stanley Erck said in a statement.
“Adding Novavax’s candidate to Operation Warp Speed’s diverse portfolio of vaccines increases the odds that we will have a safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year,” said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
Novavax's NVX‑CoV2373 is a vaccine candidate engineered from the genetic sequence of SARS‑CoV‑2, the virus that causes Covid-19 disease. The trial vaccine was created using Novavax’s so-called "recombinant nanoparticle technology" to enhance the immune response and stimulate high levels of neutralizing antibodies that fight Covid-19.
Shares of Novavax were up 28.39%, or $22.55 a share, at $101.99 in trading on Tuesday.