Of all the rags to riches stories that the pandemic has fueled for drugmakers, few are as incredible as Novavax ( NVAX -9.15% ). Shares are up about 2,500% from the beginning of the year. After the surge, should investors pass or should they buy at the high?
Excitement and frustration
Admittedly, the stock isn't near it's all-time high. Shares peaked around $180 briefly this summer, after the company became part of the U.S. government's Operation Warp Speed (OWS) and management announced positive phase 1 data from trials of its vaccine candidate.
Twice since then, there have been delays in getting the phase 3 trials started in the United States. With the stock still up, investors are betting that the drug will steal share from the COVID vaccines from Pfizer ( PFE -1.98% ) and Moderna ( MRNA -4.54% ) that require storage at much colder temperatures. The Novavax candidate only requires normal refrigeration.
A waiting game
The company was in one of the best positions when the pandemic began. Novavax had active programs to develop vaccines for both SARS and MERS, two viruses similar to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID. SARS and MERS were associated with outbreaks in 2003 and 2015, respectively. After the delays, management now says the phase 3 trial in the U.S. will begin "in the coming weeks."
Investors probably aren't the only ones who hope that's true. OWS has funded the company to the tune of $1.6 billion, some of which the company has turned into new office space and land near its current headquarters. Until we get a sense of when a Novavax vaccine might be available, and how effective it is, I am not buying at the highs. I believe shares will fade as investors realize the bulk of the 2021 opportunity is passing the company by.