Novavax (NVAX 0.81%), a clinical-stage biotechnology company, is currently perceived as one of the leaders in the race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. The company recently announced it received a grant of $4 million from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to support its efforts to develop a vaccine for the potentially deadly disease, news that sent Novavax's shares soaring Tuesday

Novavax, which previously developed vaccines for other coronaviruses, is in the process of evaluating several "nanoparticle vaccine candidates" in animals before moving on to phase 1 clinical trials, which should start in late spring. The company is still in discussion with CEPI and could receive additional funding from the foundation soon.

Novavax also entered into an agreement with Emergent BioSolutions (EBS -10.69%) -- a Maryland-based biopharmaceutical company -- to advance the development of its potential vaccine for COVID-19. Under the terms of the agreement, Emergent will be tasked with manufacturing and producing Novavax's potential vaccine for COVID-19. 

A person wearing blue gloves filling a syringe with clear liquid from a glass vial.

Image Source: Getty Images.

Nearing pandemic levels

The COVID-19 epidemic isn't slowing down. In the U.S., the number of confirmed cases increased significantly over the weekend, and there are now more than 750 confirmed cases in more than 30 states. Worldwide, there are more than 110,000 cases across more than 100 countries, along with more than 4,000 deaths. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 is dangerously close to becoming a full-blown pandemic. This threat makes Novavax's efforts to develop a vaccine for the disease worth keeping a close eye on. Other biotech companies are working on developing vaccines or treatments for COVID-19 as well, and whichever one succeeds could well prevent a worldwide pandemic.