Novavax Soars As Swine Flu Puts Focus On Multi-Strain Vaccine

Dow Jones | April 27, 2009

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Shares of Novavax Inc. on Monday traded up at more than twice last week's closing price as investors were drawn to the pharmaceutical company that has developed a multi-strain flu vaccine, which may help with future cases of flu outbreaks or pandemics.

The vaccine has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, meaning there aren't any chances for the drug to be released for commercial distribution yet. However, in case of a pandemic or outbreak, the government could call on the company to produce the drug on an emergency basis to help with the latest outbreak of swine flu in Mexico and recent cases in the U.S., an analyst from Rodman & Renshaw said.

In recent trading, shares of the company more than doubled to $3.11. The stock earlier rose to a 52-week high of $3.88. Shares of the company, which had a market capitalization of $56 million as of Friday, have more than doubled in the last three months.

Rodman & Renshaw analyst Elemer Piros said the company's stock is also trading higher as its production process is shorter than most. He said most pharmaceutical companies create the vaccine in chicken eggs, a process that can take up to six months. Novavax, however, has cut that time in half by producing the vaccine in cells.

"This will allow them to produce a higher yield, so in an emergency situation, they have the technology that can be very useful," said Piros.

Earlier this month, Novavax reported preclinical study results showing that an investigational H1N1 viruslike particle vaccine based on the 1918 Spanish influenza strain protected against both the Spanish flu and a highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza strain. The company collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to conduct the study.

Piros said the drug is currently in its Phase II trial and it will move into Phase III testing in the next six to 12 months. He added the drug will likely be released to the public in two to three years.

He also said the company at this time is unable to market or distribute the drug, meaning it's likely Novavax will pair up with a larger drug company such as GlaxoSmithKline PLC or Novartis AG.