Novavax handed an extra $147M from legacy Warp Speed program as spotlight shines brighter

A biotech with a long and often troubled past is hoping 2021 will be its year, and it’s just been handed a major tranche of cash to help make that happen.

Novavax has been in existence for more than 30 years but has never seen an approved product and has been close to having to turn the lights off and call it a day a few times. Then, COVID-19 came along and changed its fortunes, quite literally.

It was handed millions to get on with vaccine trials against the virus last year, and now, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the Operation Warp Speed pact is still handing over cash: The company was given an additional $147.34 million, bringing its total from the program to $1.74 billion.

Early data out this year showed its vaccine, NVX-CoV2373, could keep up in efficacy terms with the vaccine leaders, namely Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, and hopes, along with its stock, have remained high that it could turn in one of the most unexpected biotech wins in history.

RELATED: Novavax targets May approval for COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S.

While behind in authorizations compared to its rivals, which also now include AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson (though both have been hit recently with some safety concerns), with the rise of variants and outbreaks in highly populated places like Brazil and India, it still has a place globally to deliver billions of doses.

It may not have a place in the U.S., which may very soon have a surplus of vaccines, but President Joe Biden directly mentioned the company this week, saying that upcoming vaccines, including one from Novavax, could be shared with other countries.

More data should be coming imminently, along with an expected application—should all turn out well—for an emergency authorization. With extra money now in hand, and with trials for younger children also starting, it may finally be time for Novavax to shine, though the pressure will be sky-high for it to deliver.