Right now, the U.S. government is in search of an H7N9 vaccine that can reach the market to help prevent against a potential pandemic. And a new FDA fast-track designation for Novavax's candidate might help it get there a little sooner.
With several companies now expediting Ebola vaccines in an attempt to halt the spread of the deadly virus, Novavax has jumped in the race, announcing that it's using its nanoparticle vaccine technology to advance a candidate of its own.
Last month, critics questioned whether developing a vaccine for Middle East respiratory syndrome made any real sense for governments or vaccinemakers. But fast-forward a few weeks and everyone seems to be paying a little more attention.
As the death toll from Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus rises in Saudi Arabia, a vaccine designed by Novavax and the University of Maryland has shown promise in blocking the infection in animals.
Researchers at Kansas State University think they've found an existing antiviral drug that could squelch the H7N9 flu.
Novartis and Novavax both say they're now able to develop new immunizations within months of a viral strain's identification and sequencing.
Winter's coming, along with warnings that new cases of H7N9 bird flu in China warrant a global pandemic alert. While the most recent pandemic alarms have fizzled out without any major outbreaks of a lethal virus, the federal government has been supporting work on new vaccine technologies.
The reemergence of H7N9 in China during the past month has reinforced the need for a vaccine. Candidates from Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturers have grabbed the headlines recently, but now a U.S. player, Novavax, has joined the race with positive Phase I data.
H7N9 activity has slowed dramatically, but health authorities fear it will return in China and possibly beyond as temperatures cool. If this happens, the advancement of vaccines should strengthen the ability of healthcare systems to protect people.
The deal has the backing of the three largest shareholders, and Novavax expects to close the takeover by the end of next month. With the deal, Novavax gets ownership of a proprietary adjuvant technology it can use in vaccine candidates for pandemic flu, rabies, respiratory syncytial virus in the elderly, foot-and-mouth and other diseases.