Ladenburg Thalmann analyst Michael Higgins reiterated a Buy rating on Novavax on February 26, 2020. Michael sets a price target of $27.50 after the company announced plans to begin testing a novel COVID-19 vaccine in humans in May or June. Michael says the news today is earlier than expected, as Novavax only began working on this vaccine January 10, 2020, when the World Health Organization announced the genetic sequence of the coronavirus. He believes investors are right to buy up Novavax shares today, saying the company’s “unique” flu vaccine technology leverages both its insect-based vaccine platform and its novel Matrix-M adjuvant. Higgins highly doubts this flu outbreak goes away largely on its own since some patients with the prior viruses were highly symptomatic and quarantined, while many developing COVID-19 are contagious before being sick enough to be quarantined.
Novavax, Inc. (NASDAQ: NVAX), a late-stage biotechnology company developing next-generation vaccines for serious infectious diseases, today updated investors on its progress to develop a novel vaccine to protect against coronavirus disease COVID-19. Novavax has produced and is currently assessing multiple nanoparticle vaccine candidates in animal models prior to identifying an optimal candidate for human testing, which is expected to begin by the end of spring 2020.
Novavax created the COVID-19 vaccine candidates using its proprietary recombinant protein nanoparticle technology platform to generate antigens derived from the coronavirus spike (S) protein. Novavax expects to utilize its proprietary Matrix-M™ adjuvant with its COVID-19 vaccine candidate to enhance immune responses.
“Our previous experience working with other corona viruses, including both MERS and SARS, allowed us to mobilize quickly against COVID-19 and successfully complete the critical preliminary steps to engineer viable vaccine candidates,” said Stanley C. Erck, President and Chief Executive Officer of Novavax. “Now that the protein has been expressed stably in our baculovirus system, we aim to identify the optimal candidate and scale up production of sufficient vaccine for preliminary clinical trials. We are now well-positioned to advance the COVID-19 vaccine candidate to Phase I clinical testing in May or June.”
Novavax has a proven track record of rapid innovative vaccine development against novel emerging viruses, including efforts to develop vaccines against previous coronaviruses, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). In both cases, Novavax’ candidate vaccines demonstrated strong immunogenicity and 100% protection against virus challenge in preclinical testing. Novavax also developed a safe and clinically immogenetic Ebola vaccine candidate that proved effective in primate studies.