In January of last year, Novavax Inc. employees met at a local Maryland bar to discuss how they could save their careers. For decades, tiny biotech had tried to develop an approved vaccine, without success. The company had enough cash to survive for just another six months or so and its shares were trading below $ 4, with a market value of $ 127 million.
Today, Novavax is moving towards the authorization of a Covid-19 vaccine. Scientists believe that, if approved, it could be one of the most powerful weapons against the pandemic, offering potential key advantages over its competitors. Some preliminary data suggests that the Novavax injection may be one of the first that has been shown to stop the asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus and may also provide more durable protection.
If the vaccine is licensed, Novavax will still face the challenge of manufacturing and distributing it in large quantities. The company sold some manufacturing assets in 2019 when it was desperate for cash.
Investors, who left the 33-year-old company for dead last year, are betting that regulators will authorize Novavax’s vaccine in the coming months. They have sent shares on Nasdaq up to $ 229, up 106% so far this year. Late last month, Novavax released preliminary data indicating that its shot was effective in protecting against Covid-19, though less so against a new strain identified in South Africa that appears to be challenging for other shots as well. The results of the latest phase of the vaccine trial in the United States could be released late next month.
Novavax now has a market value of $ 15.4 billion, higher than that of companies with billions of dollars in annual sales, including generic drug giant Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.