Think about a coiled spring. It has tremendous potential energy just waiting to be released. That's a pretty good analogy for some growth stocks.

We asked three Motley Fool contributors to identify growth stocks that they believe are poised to spring upwards. Here's why they picked Axsome Therapeutics (AXSM 0.28%), Novavax (NVAX -1.70%), and Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX -0.49%)

Already flying thanks to a key FDA approval

David Jagielski (Axsome Therapeutics): All it takes for a biotech stock to get going is one good catalyst, such as a drug approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Axsome Therapeutics received just such a catalyst recently when the FDA approved Auvelity as a treatment for adults with major depressive disorder. The news prompted a 29% surge in Axsome's share price last week

Analysts believe the drug will be a blockbuster, generating around $2 billion in sales annually at its peak. A big reason for its potential is that it can help patients within a week, whereas it can take six weeks or longer before patients experience benefits from other antidepressants now on the market.

Another revenue-generating catalyst for Axsome will be Sunosi, the narcolepsy medication it recently acquired from Jazz Pharmaceuticals. The company projects that this drug could generate more than $1 billion in peak annual sales, including possible sales in other indications.

Axsome hasn't generated any revenue in previous years, but its business could finally start to get rolling. In the second quarter, Sunosi contributed $8.8 million to the company's top line. That wasn't a full quarter of sales, nor was it for all global sales. (The company anticipates the transaction for Sunosi's ex-U.S. marketing rights will close by the end of the year.)

Axsome still posted a hefty net loss of $41 million in Q2. However, with the business finally generating revenue, and with more light at the end of the tunnel due to the FDA's recent approval of Auvelity, the stock is catching fire. Given its still-modest $2.8 billion valuation, it could have more room to run.

This big biotech is just getting started 

Prosper Junior Bakiny (Vertex Pharmaceuticals): What's not to like about biotech giant Vertex Pharmaceuticals? The drugmaker has soundly beaten the broader market this year -- rising by more than 30% while the S&P 500 remains deep in the red. That performance is even more impressive considering the macroeconomic headwinds: inflation, supply chain issues, geopolitical tensions, interest rate hikes, etc.

But the company markets the only drugs that treat the underlying causes of cystic fibrosis. Patients can't simply choose to forego these medicines. Cystic fibrosis damages their internal organs, and the situation can get pretty bad without proper medication. So physicians continue to prescribe Vertex Pharmaceuticals' products, and patients continue to take them, even when the economy is tanking.

But there's more. Vertex has an exciting pipeline that should help it meaningfully expand its product lineup in the next five years. Exa-cel, a potential therapy for transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia and sickle cell disease, could earn approval as early as next year. That's if Vertex and its partner on these programs, CRISPR Therapeutics, file regulatory submissions for Exa-cel by the end of the year as they plan to.

The company also plans to start a phase 3 clinical trial in the fourth quarter for VX-548 as a treatment for acute pain. There is a dire need for new pain medications, especially given that many currently available options have dangerous side effects. Vertex is also running a phase 1/2 study for VX-880 as a treatment for type 1 diabetes. The company has several other candidates in the works as well. 

Vertex has a solid lineup that continues to produce strong revenue growth and healthy financial results. It has a rich pipeline with potential approvals and data readouts on the way. These are excellent reasons why the biotech stock should continue to soar. Investors should seriously consider scooping up the company's shares and holding onto them for a while. 

Awaiting a big boost from boosters

Keith Speights (Novavax): Unlike Axsome Therapeutics and Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Novavax hasn't given investors much to cheer about so far in 2022. Shares of the vaccine maker are down more than 70% year to date. But I think Novavax still has a shot (pun fully intended) at taking off in the not-too-distant future.

Despite Novavax winning key regulatory authorizations (including a long-anticipated FDA nod) for its COVID-19 vaccine, its shares remain in a funk. Three words in the company's Q2 update explained why: "evolving market dynamics." The demand for COVID-19 vaccines isn't as strong as it once was.

You can lay much of the blame for these evolving market dynamics on the omicron variant. The COVID-19 vaccines on the market simply don't provide as much protection against omicron. 

However, omicron-specific boosters will likely soon be available. While Novavax will be a little later to the finish line than its top two rivals -- Pfizer and Moderna -- the company expects to have its omicron booster ready in the fourth quarter.

I think Novavax's booster could carve out a significant market share because it's based on a tried-and-true approach -- protein sub-units -- rather than messenger RNA (mRNA). It's also quite possible that Novavax's omicron booster could be more effective than rival mRNA vaccines.

Over the longer run, Novavax has an opportunity to further establish itself as a vaccine leader with a COVID-flu combination inoculation. The company is actually ahead of both Pfizer and Moderna in the development of a combo vaccine.

To be sure, there's no guarantee that Novavax will live up to its potential. It hasn't so far. But don't be surprised if this underdog becomes a top dog in the COVID-19 vaccine market within the next few years.