What happened

Shares of Vaxart (NASDAQ:VXRT) were skyrocketing 21.4% higher as of 11:22 a.m. EST on Thursday. The big gains came after the drugmaker announced promising additional data from a preclinical study of its experimental oral COVID-19 vaccine.

So what

Vaxart reported a significant reduction in lung viral loads for hamsters that received two doses of its oral vaccines and were exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, compared to non-vaccinated hamsters. The company previously announced results from the preclinical study that showed hamsters that received two doses of its oral vaccine candidate didn't experience systemic weight loss while unvaccinated animals lost around 9% of their total weight.

Hamster being held by gloved hands with a stethoscope on its chest

Image source: Getty Images.

Vaxart CEO Andrei Floroiu understandably praised the latest results, stating, "These additional data provide further evidence supporting the efficacy potential of our oral COVID-19 vaccine candidate." He also noted, "In addition, we believe that our room-temperature-stable oral tablet vaccine would be a more convenient, more practical solution to the COVID-19 pandemic as compared to cold-chain dependent injectable vaccines."

Keep in mind that positive preclinical results with animals often don't translate to similar results in clinical testing with humans. However, Vaxart's latest news is definitely encouraging. That's especially the case considering that hamsters are viewed as very good animal models for evaluating experimental COVID-19 vaccines.

Now what

An even bigger catalyst for the biotech stock could be only weeks or even days away. Vaxart initiated a phase 1 clinical study of its oral COVID-19 vaccine candidate in October. The company should soon announce the initial results from this trial. If Vaxart's experimental vaccine works as well in humans as it has in hamsters, the stock could have a lot more room to run.

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