What happened

Few investors cheer when a long-serving official at one of their companies leaves their desk permanently. That was a key factor behind the underperformance of Novavax (NVAX 2.66%) stock on Thursday. The vaccine-specialist's shares dipped by almost 0.4% on the day, while the bellwether S&P 500 index crept into positive territory at nearly the same percentage rate.

So what

The departing party is Greg Glenn, the president of research and development. Glenn's move is effective next Friday, March 31, but will serve as a consultant to the company after that. His move is not a surprise coming out of left field -- the company previously announced his departure at the end of February.

Even though it was entirely expected, Glenn's stepping down wasn't welcome news. First, research and development is a crucial area for biotechs like Novavax, as their future is heavily dependent on their pipeline programs. Second, Glenn was a longtime company mainstay, having joined Novavax in 2010.

Novavax didn't divulge any plans for finding a permanent replacement for their outgoing president of research and development. 

Now what

These days, Novavax is probably best known as the developer of the coronavirus vaccine Nuvaxovid. For obvious reasons, such jabs have been very hot items this decade. But there's a big caveat with Novavax -- it took a relatively long time to get Nuvaxovid authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

By the time Nuvaxovid was finally given the green light in July 2022, the U.S. already had three competing (and well-established) FDA-sanctioned vaccines on the market. Still seen as a laggard in the coronavirus vaccine race, Novavax is finding it challenging to surmount that reputation.