The stock market has performed well lately, with even occasional downturns often reversing course quickly. That's what investors saw on Tuesday morning, as all three major market benchmarks started the morning lower before starting to regain ground. Just after 11 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 0.34%) was still down 144 points to 26,143. However, the S&P 500 (^GSPC 0.12%) gained two points to 3,181, and the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC -0.07%) led the way higher, picking up 72 points to 10,506.

The biotech industry has been one of the driving forces behind the recovery in the stock market since March. Efforts to find treatments for the COVID-19 pandemic have taken top priority at many companies in the space, and today, Novavax (NVAX -9.65%) and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN 1.48%) got good news from the federal government.

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Novavax is climbing at Warp Speed

Novavax shares were up more than 30% Tuesday morning as investors reacted positively to the latest news from the biotech. As a major player in the race to find a coronavirus vaccine, Novavax got a shot in the arm from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Novavax's NVX-CoV2373 COVID-19 vaccine candidate got added to the list of potential vaccines covered under the Operation Warp Speed program. After being initially left off the list, Novavax will now receive $1.6 billion to help it develop its vaccine. The money will also help the company build capacity to manufacture 100 million doses of NVX-CoV2373 by the end of the year.

Investors are frantically watching Novavax and a host of competitors as they all race through the clinical trial process in their efforts to find a viable way to control the coronavirus. With a phase 1/2 clinical trial having started up in May, Novavax wants to move quickly with the idea of reaching phase 3 during the fourth quarter of 2020. This money will help a lot, and it's giving Novavax investors far more confidence that they're not getting left out of the race right out of the starting gate.

A smaller win for Regeneron

On a related note, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals climbed 4%. The company also got a deal from the Department of Health and Human Services, and even though the dollar amount was less, investors were still pleased to see the company getting the credit it's due.

Regeneron signed a $450 million contract with the federal government's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, with the Department of Defense also included in the deal. Under the contract, Regeneron will provide a fixed number of doses of its REGN-COV2 treatment, which it's testing both as a way to prevent the disease and as a treatment for those who are already suffering from COVID-19.

REGN-COV2 is moving quickly through the trial process, with two Phase 2/3 clinical trials for treating the disease and one phase 3 trial evaluating its preventative efficacy. Regeneron anticipates it will provide somewhere between 70,000 and 300,000 doses for potential treatment of COVID-19 patients, or 420,000 to 1.3 million doses for prevention of the disease. It's looking to provide the first lots by the end of summer.

Both Regeneron and Novavax have already enjoyed massive moves higher because of their coronavirus efforts to date. Today's gains point to the importance of finding a permanent solution to COVID-19, and investors are hopeful that one or both of these biotech companies will see success quickly.