What happened

By and large, biotech stocks had a forgettable 2018, and none more so than Dynavax Technologies (NASDAQ:DVAX). Despite the long-awaited commercial launch of Dynavax's hepatitis B vaccine, Heplisav-B, the stock lost a staggering 51% of its value last year, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Dynavax was thus one of the worst-performing biotech stocks among companies with a product on the market in 2018. 

Chalkboard chart with a downward trending arrow.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Why was Dynavax's stock singled out for such harsh treatment last year? It all boils down to Heplisav-B's commercial performance. Over the first nine months of the year, the vaccine generated an anemic $2.9 million in net revenue for the company -- a figure that underwhelmed Wall Street, to put it mildly. Heplisav-B, after all, was championed, prior to its launch, as the heir apparent to GlaxoSmithKline's aging hepatitis B vaccine Engerix-B, thanks to its pronounced dosing and potency advantages over the current market share leader

Now what

Heplisav-B's slow commercial launch, though, certainly shouldn't be viewed as a failure -- or even as a harbinger of things to come. The long and short of it is that Dynavax had to build a commercial infrastructure from the ground up to launch Heplisav-B on its own and that process takes time -- especially for a company with a rather limited budget and other pressing capital allocation needs. 

Fortunately, Dynavax's hard work appears to be paying off. At the recent J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, the company announced that Heplisav-B's fourth-quarter sales came in at a respectable $3.7 million for the three-month period. The vaccine's commercial launch, therefore, appears to be gaining traction. And if so, Dynavax may have what it takes to mount a comeback in 2019.

George Budwell has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.