What happened

Shares of NantKwest (NASDAQ:NK) are up 40% at 12:40 p.m. EDT after the company's CEO Patrick Soon-Shiong made an appearance on Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo's Wall Street to talk about NantKwest's COVID-19 vaccine.

So what

While other companies such as Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) and Inovio (NASDAQ:INO) are developing vaccines to create antibodies to the spike protein on the outside of the virus, which should block the virus from entering the patient's cell, NantKwest has developed a vaccine expressing both the spike protein and the nucleocapsid protein on the inside of the virus.

Soon-Shiong hypothesizes that the nucleocapsid protein will be required to create memory T-cells that provide long-term immunity because patients who have survived other coronavirus outbreaks only had long-term memory T-cells that target the nucleocapsid protein.

Gloved hands about to give an injection into a shoulder

Image source: Getty Images.

The biotech has applied to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) for funding to ramp up production of the vaccine, but is still in talks with the government agency. NantKwest's vaccine, which is ready to start clinical trials, wasn't included in the five vaccines for Operation Warp Speed.

Now what

NantKwest is most famous for the cancer treatments that it's developing, and investors should continue to focus on its pipeline of drugs treating a wide range of tumor types. The drugs are still in early-stage development, and an infusion of cash from a successful COVID-19 vaccine would certainly help. But ultimately, NantKwest is going to live and die by its cancer platform, so investors shouldn't get distracted by the one-time benefit of a COVID-19 vaccine.