In its statement Tuesday, Novavax announced results from the Phase 1 portion of the Phase 1/2 trial of its Covid-19 vaccine—a randomized, controlled trial of 131 healthy adults. The study found that all subjects who received the vaccine developed neutralizing antibody responses after the second dose. Reactions were generally mild. There were no serious adverse events.
In a note Tuesday night, Evercore ISI analyst Josh Schimmer wrote that in a comparison of absolute neutralizing antibody levels between the Covid-19 vaccine trials that have read out so far, “NVAX is a clear winner.” But it isn’t clear that that comparison is appropriate, or even that high levels of neutralizing antibodies would necessarily correlate to higher degrees of protection from the virus.
Novavax’s vaccine is based on a far more proven technology than the messenger RNA-based vaccines under development from Moderna (MRNA) and Pfizer (PFE). No messenger RNA vaccines have ever been approved by regulators; the Food and Drug Administration has approved adjuvanted subunit vaccines like the one Novavax is developing.
While Novavax is a few months behind the leaders in the race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, this early stage data suggests that the company might have a best-in-class product. That’s a big deal because a top-tier COVID-19 vaccine — sold at only a modest profit margin – could haul in some truly staggering sales figures (greater than $13 billion annually).
Novavax has been conducting trials of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate called NVX‑CoV2373. On Tuesday, the company announced positive results from the Phase 1 trial. In the trial, NVX‑CoV2373 was administered to more than 130 healthy adults. The trial results showed that NVX‑CoV2373 elicited a robust immune response. Also, Novavax observed that vaccine candidate is safe for human use. The individuals in the trial tolerated the vaccine well.
Confusion over the vaccine’s safety data arose after a media report incorrectly said trial participants were hospitalized with severe reactions. The vaccine appeared safe in the more than 100 patients who received it, according to the company. Reactions to the shots were generally mild, lasting two days or less. One patient getting the vaccine had a mild skin infection that was determined not to be related to the shot.
Although it seems counterintuitive based on the stock’s rockstar performance over the past seven months, the truth is that Novavax’s shares may have a lot more room to run. COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere any time soon according to most experts, and it may even evolve into a long-term seasonal concern.
In short, it wouldn’t be surprising in the least if this red-hot biotech stock ended the year at over $300 a share — or 91% higher compared to where its shares closed on Tuesday.