What happened

Shares of Novavax (NASDAQ:NVAX) were skyrocketing 44.6% higher as of 11:56 a.m. EST on Tuesday. The huge jump was due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China. This new virus has infected more than 200 people, and there have been at least six deaths reported so far. Novavax focuses on the development of vaccines for infectious diseases.

So what

Several other biotech stocks also moved higher with mounting concerns about the coronavirus that's spreading in China. But Novavax delivered the biggest gains, probably because the company has already developed experimental vaccines that showed promise for treating a different type of coronavirus.

Scientist holding a vial in a lab

Image source: Getty Images.

But it's important to note that Novavax doesn't have any approved products at this point. Its lead pipeline candidates are ResVax, which is a vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and flu vaccine NanoFlu. ResVax failed to meet the primary endpoint of a late-stage study in maternal immunization of infants last year.

Novavax's best hope right now is with NanoFlu. The company recently won Food and Drug Administration Fast Track Designation for the experimental vaccine in adults 65 and older. 

Now what

Should a pandemic begin to emerge with the coronavirus, you can bet that Novavax and others will shift plenty of resources to develop vaccines targeting the new strain of the virus. For now, though, investors should focus more on Novavax's potential with NanoFlu.

The company is currently evaluating NanoFlu in a phase 3 clinical study comparing it against leading flu vaccine Fluzone. Novavax expects to report results from this study by the end of the first quarter of 2020.