Novavax Inc. initiated testing of its coronavirus vaccine candidate in people and anticipates providing a first look in July at what sort of immune responses are generated.
In the first part of the study, 130 healthy adult volunteers at two sites in Australia will get two doses of NVX-CoV2373, the biotech’s experimental vaccine. If the initial results look promising, the company plans to quickly move into the second phase of the trial, which would expand testing to other countries and age groups outside of 18 to 59.
Novavax’s valuation has swelled by more than 1,000% to about $2.7 billion since the start of the year despite having no products on the market. With about $388 million in funding from the Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations in its pocket, Novavax has said it is targeting emergency-use authorization and production could be scaled up to 100 million doses by year end.
“Our investment in Novavax allows us to focus on manufacturing in parallel with the clinical development of the vaccine, so that if the vaccine is proven to be safe and effective, we can make doses available to those who need them without delay,” CEPI chief executive Richard Hatchett, said in a statement.
The Gaithersburg, Maryland-based company is one of an estimated 10 that have begun testing vaccines for the pandemic in people, according to the World Health Organization. WHO estimates there are more than 100 other vaccine candidates in earlier stages of development. Moderna Inc. reported the first Covid-19 vaccine results in humans last week.
Smaller vaccine developers are racing alongside larger, profitable drugmakers like Pfizer Inc., AstraZeneca Plc. as well as academic institutions. Even if a vaccine is eventually shown to be effective, there will be hurdles to manufacturing as well as distribution.