Vaxart Shares Jump on Promising Data for Its COVID-19 Vaccine

The biotech says its room-temperature-stable oral tablet vaccine would be a more practical solution to the coronavirus pandemic.
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Vaxart  (VXRT) - Get Report shares were rising sharply Thursday after the biotech said that additional results from a study of its coronavirus vaccine using hamsters showed promising signs of the vaccine's effectiveness. Unlike other potential vaccines showing promise, Vaxart's can be kept at room temperature and would not require a cold chain to transport it. 

Shares of the South San Francisco-based company were rising 12.1% to $5.19 in morning trading.

Vaxart said there was significant reduction in lung viral load of the virus in hamsters that received two oral vaccine doses, as compared with non-vaccinated animals. Antibody titers also showed the vaccine induced a potent immune response, the company said.

Hamsters were given two doses of the vaccine candidate four weeks apart and then exposed to the coronavirus four weeks later.

Vaxart said that hamsters are considered an excellent model for assessing COVID-19 infection since they can be infected via the intranasal route, and, if infected, they demonstrate clinical symptoms such as weight loss, labored breathing and ruffled fur.

Unvaccinated animals lost about 9% of their total weight, according to Vaxart.

"These additional data provide further evidence supporting the efficacy potential of our oral COVID-19 vaccine candidate,” CEO Andrei Floroiu said in a statement. 

In addition, Floroiu said, "we believe that our room-temperature-stable oral tablet vaccine would be a more convenient, more practical solution to the COVID-19 pandemic as compared to cold-chain dependent injectable vaccines.”

Last week, Pfizer said the the coronavirus vaccine it was developing was 90% effective in late-stage trials, sending global stock markets sharply higher.  

However, the vaccine candidate must be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit), which has caused concern among some medical experts about transporting the vaccine to rural hospitals and poorer countries.

Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it would be challenging to distribute vaccines that use messenger-RNA based technology such as Pfizer's in developing countries, owing to their cold storage requirements, Reuters reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised state health departments against purchasing ultra-cold freezers, saying other vaccines with less demanding storage requirements will be available soon.