What happened

Shares of Novavax (NVAX -0.47%) were jumping 13.6% higher as of 11:14 a.m. EST on Monday. The big gain came after the stock skyrocketed last week as fears increased about the coronavirus outbreak in China that has spread to the U.S. Today's increase resulted from even greater worries as more U.S. cases of infection were confirmed over the weekend.

So what

Novavax ranks as one of a handful of biotechs that have programs that could potentially address the coronavirus strain that's causing such alarm. The company announced last week that it's working to develop a vaccine for the virus.

Gloved hand holding a vial of blood with a label stating "coronavirus"

Image source: Getty Images.

But while Novavax and other antivirus-focused biotech stocks are benefiting from the increased concerns, it's important for investors to remember that none of these companies have a product that can target the coronavirus strain right now. Novavax president of research and development Greg Glenn was exactly right when he said in an interview with Yahoo! Finance last week that it could take a long time before an effective and safe vaccine is ready.

Now what

Investors definitely should keep their eyes on Novavax's progress toward developing a vaccine that could address the coronavirus strain that is making headlines. They should also watch the progress of other drugmakers, including BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, Inovio, Moderna, Gilead Sciences, and Johnson & Johnson.

However, the primary potential catalyst for Novavax in the near future is the company's results from a late-stage clinical study of its NanoFlu flu vaccine expected to be announced later in the first quarter of 2020. If those results are positive, the company could be on track to get its first approved therapy on the market.