What happened

Dynavax's (NASDAQ:DVAX) shares are climbing 6.1% as of 3:35 p.m. EDT on Tuesday after the company announced the first patients have been dosed in an early stage trial evaluating a COVID-19 vaccine containing its CpG 1018 adjuvant.

So what

Medicago, a private company owned by Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma (OTC:MTZX.F) and Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM), is evaluating whether Dynavax's adjuvant enhances immune responses to its plant-derived COVID-19 vaccine.

A syringe resting next to a jig saw puzzle piece displaying the word vaccine.

Image source: Getty Images.

The phase 1 trial is enrolling 180 people to evaluate three dose levels of Medicago's plant-derived coronavirus-like particle COVID-19 vaccine. Participants will receive either Medicago's vaccine on its own or in combination with Dynavax's adjuvant or an adjuvant made by competitor GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK).

The healthcare company expects preliminary safety and efficacy data from this trial in October. If successful, Medicago plans to initiate a phase 3 trial soon thereafter.

Now what

Dynavax isn't developing its own vaccine, but it has inked deals with other companies to incorporate its adjuvant into their efforts, giving it multiple shots on goal.

There's no telling if Dynavax's adjuvant will work, but the fact it's already used in Dynavax's FDA-approved hepatitis B vaccine -- Heplisav-B -- is encouraging. 

Nonetheless, since a flurry of COVID-19 vaccine research is under way and it remains to be seen which projects pan out or if one vaccine works better than another, investors might want to approach Dynavax cautiously until more data is available.