In January of last year, employees of Novavax Inc. gathered at a local bar in Maryland to discuss how they could save their careers. For decades, small biotechnology had tried to develop an approved vaccine, without success. The company had enough cash to survive only about six months and its shares were trading for under $ 4, with a market value of $ 127 million.
Today, Novavax is progressing towards the authorization of a Covid-19 vaccine. Scientists believe that, if erased, it could be one of the most powerful weapons against the pandemic, offering key potential advantages over its competitors. Some preliminary data suggests that the Novavax vaccine could be one of the first to curb the asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus and also potentially provide longer lasting protection.
If the vaccine is approved, 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 in desperate need of cash.
Investors, who left the 33-year-old company for dead last year, are betting regulators will clear Novavax’s vaccine within the next two months. They sent shares on the 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, but less against a new strain identified in South Africa that appears to be a challenge for other shots as well. The results of the late-stage US trial of the vaccine could be released at the end of next month.
Novavax now has a market value of $ 15.4 billion, higher than companies with billions of dollars in annual sales, including generic drug giant Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.