Novavax (NVAX 2.06%) has been plowing through the early stages of the development of its SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373, and recently announced that it plans to start human clinical trials in mid-May. Previously, it had been less specific, stating that it planned to initiate clinical trials in "late spring."

Novavax has been assessing various vaccine candidates in animal models, and reports that NVX-CoV2373 demonstrated high immunogenicity -- the ability to trigger the body's immune response -- in preclinical trials. 

Novavax also said that in preclinical studies, NVX-CoV2373 was able to generate effective antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. According to Matthew Frieman, an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the results of these preclinical studies provide "strong evidence that the vaccine created by Novavax has the potential to be highly immunogenic in humans which could lead to protection from COVID-19 and helping to control the spread of this disease."

Hand filling a syringe with liquid from a glass vial.

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Even moving at this rapid pace, Novavax still trails several biotech companies in the race to develop a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2. On March 6, Inovio Pharmaceuticals (INO -5.10%) initiated a phase 1 clinical trial for its investigational SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, INO-4800. This trial will involve up to 40 healthy adult volunteers who will each receive two doses of INO-4800 four weeks apart. As it is a phase 1 trial, it will test INO-4800's safety and immunogenicity, but not its efficacy. 

Moderna (MRNA -0.58%) also has already kicked off a phase 1 clinical trial for its potential vaccine for SARS-CoV-2. This trial -- which is being led by the National Institutes of Health -- will involve 45 healthy adult volunteers and will test the vaccine's safety, immunogenicity, and the dosages that generate expected side effects.