What happened

Shares of Vaxart (NASDAQ:VXRT) were vaulting 10.8% higher as of 11:38 a.m. EDT on Monday after rising as much as 22.9% earlier in the day. The gain appears to be continued momentum from last Friday, when Vaxart's COVID-19 vaccine was selected to participate in the U.S. government's Operation Warp Speed initiative to rapidly develop a safe and effective novel coronavirus vaccine.

So what

Investors have been eager to buy shares of any company that receives positive publicity about its COVID-19 program. Vaxart's inclusion in Operation Warp Speed was exactly the kind of publicity the small biotech needed.

Scientist looking through a microscope

Image source: Getty Images.

The federal program had previously picked several COVID-19 vaccine candidates to fund for testing. Vaxart's is the first oral COVID-19 vaccine to be selected. The company's vaccine is being included in a preclinical trial with nonhuman primates.

What's especially impressive is that Vaxart chose its lead COVID-19 vaccine candidate only a little over a month ago. The company announced on May 20 that it had selected a COVID-19 vaccine candidate to advance and had contracted with KindredBio and Emergent BioSolutions to manufacture the vaccine. 

Now what

The biotech stock has potential catalysts on the way that just might keep its momentum going. Vaxart expects to announce results from its collaboration with Johnson & Johnson on a universal influenza vaccine soon. It also hopes to begin a phase 1 clinical study of its oral COVID-19 vaccine in the second half of 2020.