Novavax Shares Soar After U.S. Commits $1.6 Billion To Its Coronavirus Vaccine

Plus, Regeneron said it has signed a $450 million contract with the U.S. to procure up to 1.3 million doses of its coronavirus antibody treatment, the White House is pushing Congress to pass a new stimulus bill by early August, Carnival shares are down after it canceled more cruises, and Palantir just filed to go public.

Stocks were mixed to start Tuesday with the Dow falling 181 points, or 0.7%, and the S&P 500 falling less than 0.1%. The Nasdaq rose 0.6%.

Novavax shares are up nearly 29% this morning after news broke that it will receive $1.6 billion from the U.S. government for its coronavirus vaccine candidate, marking the biggest contribution yet from Operation Warp Speed. The funds will enable the company to conduct advanced human studies and set up manufacturing to deliver 100 million doses of its vaccine as soon as late 2020. “The pandemic has caused an unprecedented public health crisis, making it more important than ever that industry, government and funding entities join forces to defeat the novel coronavirus together. We are honored to partner with Operation Warp Speed to move our vaccine candidate forward with extraordinary urgency in the quest to provide vital protection to our nation’s population,” said Stanley C. Erck, President and Chief Executive Officer of Novavax. “We are grateful to the U.S. government for its confidence in our technology platform, and are working tirelessly to develop and produce a vaccine for this global health crisis.” A Phase 1/2 clinical trail for the vaccine candidate began in May with 130 healthy participants, and the pivotal Phase 3 trial is expected to begin in the fall with 30,000 subjects. 

In other coronavirus news, Regeneron shares are up 3.6% at the time of writing after announcing it has signed a $450 million contract with the U.S. government to procure up to 1.3 million doses of its antibody cocktail treatment to prevent COVID-19. GlaxoSmithKline is collaborating on an experimental COVID-19 vaccine with Medicago, a company partly owned by Philip Morris International. Human trials on the pair’s vaccine is due to start mid-July and the companies will aim to make it available in early 2021 if successful. And coronavirus herd immunity strategies are being called into question after the antibodies for the deadly virus in Spain’s population were found to be “insufficient to provide herd immunity” despite the country having one of the worst outbreaks. In a peer-reviewed paper published in the Lancet medical journal, researchers from Harvard, MIT, and several Spanish institutions found that only about 5% of participants in their antibodies study of 61,075 people were found to have antibodies from point-of-care tests, and antibodies were detected in just 4.6% of blood samples. “Despite the high impact of Covid-19 in Spain, prevalence estimates remain low and are clearly insufficient to provide herd immunity,” the report’s authors said. “This cannot be achieved without accepting the collateral damage of many deaths in the susceptible population and overburdening of health systems. In this situation, social distance measures and efforts to identify and isolate new cases and their contacts are imperative for future epidemic control.”

The White House is pushing Congress to pass another coronavirus stimulus deal by the first week of August before lawmakers head home for their annual summer recess. Vice President Mike Pence’s top aide said they’d like to keep the cost of the deal at $1 trillion or less. “I think we want to make sure that people that are still unemployed or hurting are protected but at the same time, we want to take into consideration the fact the economy is bouncing back and want to try to contain the amount of spending,” Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, told Bloomberg on Tuesday. “There’s obviously been a lot of stimulus put in the system over the last couple bills, and so the price tag for us would be that.” President Donald Trump and senior White House officials have said that a payroll tax cut, liability reform, tax incentives for businesses to adapt to the pandemic, and a potential back-to-work bonus are their priorities for the next round of stimulus. 

Carnival Corp shares are down nearly -4% this morning after the cruise operator moved to cancel more sailings, push back others, and redeploy some ships as the sector continues to be roiled by the coronavirus pandemic. “We continue to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global commerce, public health and our cruise operations. In addition to our current pause in service, there have been many other unintended consequences, including shipyard, dry dock and ship delivery delays, and related changes to our deployment plans for our fleet,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, in a press release. “While we had hoped to make up construction time on Mardi Gras over the summer, it’s clear we will need extra time to complete this magnificent ship. We share our guests’ disappointment and appreciate their patience as we work through this unprecedented time in our business and the lives of so many people. We remain committed to working with government, public health and industry officials to support the response to the pandemic and to return to operations when the time is right.”

And secretive data analytics company Palantir Technologies announced that it has confidentially filed with the SEC for an initial public offering. The company offered no details about the plan, including nothing on the timing or size of the offer, nor anything on the bankers its working with on the plan. Palantir has been privately valued at $20 billion, making it among the most valuable venture-backed unicorns. In a Form D firing with the SEC last week, it disclosed plans for offering $961 million in pre-IPO shares, of which nearly $550 million has already been sold. Palantir was co-founded by billionaire Peter Thiel, and The Wall Street Journal reported that CEO Alex Karp has told employees that the company is cash-flow positive.

Stocks We’re Watching

Mesoblast Ltd (NASDAQ: MESO): Mesoblast shares gained as much as 18% yesterday after it announced that an expanded access protocol had been initiated by the U.S. for compassionate use of the company’s allogeneic mesenchymal stem cell produce candidate remestemcel-L in the treatment of COVID-19 infected children with cardiovascular and other complications of multi system inflammatory syndrome. “The extensive body of safety and efficacy data generated to date using remestemcel-L in children with graft versus host disease suggest that our cellular therapy could provide a clinically important therapeutic benefit in MIS-C patients, especially if the heart is involved as a target organ for inflammation,” said Mesovlast Chief Medical Officer Dr. Fred Grossman in a press release. “Use of remestemcel-L in children with COVID-19 builds on and extends the potential application of this cell therapy in COVID-19 cytokine storm beyond the most severe adults with acute respiratory distress syndrome.”

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