If you owned shares of Novavax (NASDAQ:NVAX) at the beginning of 2020, you're probably a happy camper right now. Its shares have skyrocketed more than 3,000%. An initial investment of $10,000 would have turned into close to $325,000.

Novavax still holds the potential to make investors who buy the stock now very wealthy. But could this biotech stock even be a millionaire-maker? 

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Huge catalysts ahead

Most clinical-stage biotechs would be glad to have one pipeline candidate with the potential to generate $1 billion or more in annual sales within the next few years. Novavax has two such candidates.

The biggie, of course, is the company's experimental COVID-19 vaccine NVX-CoV2373. Novavax is already conducting a late-stage study of the vaccine in the U.K. It had hoped to begin a similar late-stage study in the U.S. in October. That study has been delayed a couple of times, however, as Novavax works with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to get its manufacturing process cleared.

But Novavax should be in a position to announce interim results from its U.K. study in early 2021. That could pave the way for regulatory filings in multiple countries outside the U.S. The biotech anticipates beginning its U.S. late-stage study within the next few weeks. If all goes well, it seems likely that Novavax could file for U.S. emergency use authorization of NVX-CoV2373 in the second quarter of 2021.

Meanwhile, the company only needs to complete a lot consistency trial for nanoparticle-based flu vaccine candidate NanoFlu to submit for FDA approval. NanoFlu outperformed market-leading flu vaccine FluZone Quadrivalent in a late-stage study. If approved, the vaccine could generate peak annual sales of well over $1 billion.

Even better, Novavax is exploring the potential to merge NVX-CoV2373 and NanoFlu into a combo COVID/flu vaccine for post-pandemic use. This possibility just might help the company achieve more success than much larger rivals over the long run.

Flywheel effect

Best-selling author Jim Collins wrote about the "flywheel effect" in his classic business book Good to Great. He used an analogy of a huge flywheel. It takes a lot of effort at first to merely get the flywheel to move a small amount. But with continued pushing, the flywheel eventually builds up so much momentum that it circles rapidly with little effort. Businesses that achieve this kind of flywheel effect stand out from the rest.

It's possible that early successes for NVX-CoV2373 and NanoFlu could give Novavax a flywheel effect. Assuming the biotech launches both vaccines, Novavax could have billions of dollars per year flowing into its coffers. The company would undoubtedly use a lot of that money to invest in expanding its pipeline.

Novavax currently only has one other clinical-stage program, respiratory syncytial vaccine (RSV) candidate ResVax. Unfortunately, ResVax has suffered some setbacks in the past with disappointing late-stage clinical results. However, the biotech still maintains that there's a path forward for its experimental RSV vaccine.

More importantly, with enough money, Novavax could develop vaccine candidates targeting other viruses. It could potentially advance its preclinical programs into clinical studies. Any pipeline success would enable Novavax to build its pipeline even more. Call it a biotech version of a flywheel.

Millionaire-maker stock?

There's no question that Novavax has a path to becoming a much bigger company. Does that mean that it could be a millionaire-maker stock? Maybe, but the odds are definitely against it.

Novavax's market cap currently stands at around $8 billion. For an investment of $10,000 now to grow into $1 million, the stock would need to soar enough for the company's market cap to top $800 billion. For the record, that's roughly twice the size of the biggest healthcare company in the world right now.

Anything is possible over a long enough period. Novavax could be a millionaire-maker stock. However, that's probably not going to happen. The good news, though, is that the stock could still deliver excellent returns with a little bit of luck. You'll just need to find a few other stocks to buy to reach that magic $1 million mark.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.