What happened

Dynavax Technologies (NASDAQ:DVAX), a small-cap commercial-stage biotech, saw its shares gain as much as 18% in early action today. What's boosting the biotech's stock?

Dynavax's shares are responding positively to the company's first-quarter earnings report. The big-ticket item is that the company's hepatitis B vaccine, Heplisav-B, is finally gaining traction after a painfully slow start to its commercial launch. As proof, the vaccine's sales hit $5.6 million in the first quarter, representing a healthy 43% bump compared to the fourth quarter of 2018.

Drawing of a rocket launching from an open hand against a stormy background

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Per its press release, Dynavax noted that Heplisav-B has achieved sales in three out of the top four national retail pharmacy chains, and that a whopping 1,454 individual customers have now purchased the vaccine since launch. Now, Heplisav-B still has a long way to go to achieve the company's peak sales estimate of approximately $500 million per year. But the trend is at least heading in the right direction.

Over the past year, after all, investors were starting to openly wonder if Dynavax would ever be able to get the vaccine's commercial launch to pick up steam. That key concern now seems to be fading in the wake of these strong first-quarter results.

Now what

In addition to Heplisav-B's improving commercial trajectory, Dynavax also announced that its immuno-oncology candidate SD-101 would be featured in three presentations at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's Annual Meeting in June. It's no secret that Dynavax is hoping to snag a big-pharma partner for SD-101. These abstracts are an encouraging sign that a licensing deal is still a possibility.

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