Novavax receives $1.6 billion for coronavirus vaccine research and supply

Researchers working on Novavax's coronavirus vaccine.
Researchers working in a Novavax lab.
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Novavax stocks are skyrocketing because of an announcement from the Trump Administration. They awarded $1.6 billion to Novavax for coronavirus vaccine research. The announcement was made on Tuesday and is a part of the Trump Administration’s attempt at getting COVID-19 vaccines to stop the pandemic and reopen the economy. This attempt, called Operation Warp Speed, has added Novavax’s vaccine to a group of other candidates. Novavax will give the U.S. government something in return.

Operation Warp Speed

The Trump Administration’s Operation Warp Speed has invested billions of dollars. This money is sitting with many medical research and manufacturing companies in order to boost COVID-19 vaccine production.

Novavax’s coronavirus vaccine is named NVX-CoV2373. It will be joining vaccine candidates from Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer, Merck, and a partnership between the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. Operation Warp Speed granted $1.6 billion to Novavax. In exchange, Novavax agreed to supply the U.S. government 100 million doses. As of right now, they are expecting this amount to provide protection for 50 million people. This is because current research shows that two doses will be needed per person.

“Adding Novavax’s candidate to Operation Warp Speed’s diverse portfolio of vaccines increases the odds that we will have a safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations also granted Novavax $388 million.

Distribution of these vaccines will begin towards the end of the year. The full 100 million will be available by February, according to Stanley Erck. STAT reports this expectation from Novavax’s CEO and President.

Novavax’s coronavirus vaccine research and production

The money will go to research and manufacturing purposes. Novavax is in the midst of their vaccine research. The timeline for vaccine research typically starts at the preclinical stage. This is where initial research, tweaking, and production happens. Here, the vaccine is still very much in its infancy. Human trials start at Phase 1, followed by Phases 2 and 3. Each phase then progressively introduces more humans to the vaccine. This is when scientists measure safety and effectiveness. This is key to getting a vaccine on the market because it’s so important, and it’s where most companies fail.

Novavax is entering late-stage clinical trials. Firstly, Phase 1 began on May 26, with results available by the end of this month. Secondly, Phase 2 trials will begin within a few weeks of these results being published. Finally, Phase 3 is expected to begin in the third quarter of 2020. 30,000 participants will take part in this study, with two doses each. They will be three weeks apart.

Studies show that 100% of mice and primates (non-humans) developed an immune response after the first dose. These results have not yet undergone the peer review process.

Novavax recently purchased production facility in the Czech Repubic. It is expected to make billion doses a year. Alongside plans to produce in India and Asia, “I think that takes care of a lot of the issues around potential border closings, so that vaccine will be available for the globe,” Erck said.

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