No matter how the novel coronavirus pandemic pans out from here, more than likely, history will regard Novavax (NASDAQ:NVAX) stock as a Cinderella tale.
Just a year before Novavax earned a $1.6 billion award from the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed initiative, the company was on the verge of collapse.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, NVAX stock went from a single-digit equity unit to one still commanding three figures.
Still, one can’t help wondering if Novavax will become a rags-to-riches-back-to-rags story. While those who were fortunate enough to hold NVAX stock just prior to the pandemic have benefitted from a spectacular journey, the ride has been less enjoyable for those who climbed aboard in the middle of the narrative.
For instance, in August 2020, NVAX stock closed at a multi-year high of $178.51. Weeks later, shares found themselves trading in two-digit territory as coronavirus cases began fading.
Later on, though, the dramatic surge in new infections and hospitalizations saw NVAX again making headlines, this time with a closing price tag of just under $320 in February of this year.
But with infections again fading, NVAX stock lost its luster heading into the second quarter. It trades at about $203 today.
While the underlying company’s subunit vaccine showed much promise, the messenger-RNA-based vaccines of Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) reached the finish line first.
Moreover, advanced-methodology vaccines from Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) provided an alternative solution for Americans seeking inoculation, while AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) covered many European residents. Frustratingly, as its competitors started distributing its vaccines, Novavax encountered manufacturing setbacks.
Now, it’s raring to get going, with the drugmaker possibly set for requesting regulatory approval later this month. Finally, some outside factors appear to be moving in Novavax’s favor, with the delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus potentially providing an upside catalyst for NVAX stock.
Still, is the second year into this global crisis the charm for the vaccine maker?
NVAX Stock Requires a Cautionary Approach
On the surface, the delta variant cynically may be what the doctor ordered for NVAX stock. Part of the reason for vaccine hesitancy is the concept that novel vaccines — such as the aforementioned mRNA approach — are unproven. Fundamentally, I think we can all appreciate where these folks are coming from even if we don’t necessarily agree with them.
Frankly, the vaccine rollout does seem rushed — although the lingering irony in domestic politics is that President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed was undeniably one of his greatest pandemic-related accomplishments.
But with Novavax’s subunit solution, the company offers a proven platform. Scientists used the subunit approach to develop the hepatitis B vaccine, for example. Psychologically, this should be comforting to those who are on the fence.
One of the biggest advantages of subunits is that they’re ideal for those with weakened immune systems.
In addition, researchers from the University of Liverpool and the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge stated that the subunit approach “offers distinct advantages over mRNA-based vaccines in terms of the ease and cost of production, the robustness of material and the potency of protection.”
So there’s no doubt that Novavax is medically relevant, but the question is whether investors find the economic relevance with NVAX stock. That’s a tricky question to answer at this stage of the game.
Mainly, if people haven’t been vaccinated by this point — when vaccines are readily available and free — they’re likely not going to, irrespective of the delta variant. Moreover, there’s nothing so distinct about Novavax’s solution that will substantively convince the purposefully unvaccinated to take the jab.
We’re still talking about a two-shot regimen, so Johnson & Johnson has an edge there, and Novavax isn’t helping matters for the needle averse.
Vaxart (NASDAQ:VXRT) will have the advantage with its tablet-based solution.
Novel Vaccines May Be Better
What may be additionally problematic for NVAX stock is that medical research indicates greater potentiality with nucleic-acid-based vaccines (such as mRNA-based solutions) than with subunits.
According to Nature.com, “Recent improvements in mRNA vaccines act to increase protein translation, modulate innate and adaptive immunogenicity and improve delivery.”
Further, these improvements may spark treatment options for other infectious diseases and even chronic conditions. The aforementioned article states that “multiple mRNA vaccine platforms against infectious diseases and several types of cancer have demonstrated encouraging results in both animal models and humans.”
Of course, it’s too early to dismiss Novavax. As the pandemic ebbs and flows, it’s possible that its subunit vaccines could enjoy renewed demand. However, the same argument applies to the other approaches, as we’re finding out. Therefore, I would be careful in being too heavily vested in NVAX stock.
On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare.