Novavax, Inc. (NASDAQ:NVAX) shares were rising 5% in after-hours trading yesterday after the company reported second-quarter financials and provided investors with an update on its regulatory and clinical progress.
This was the fresh burst of reassurance investors needed to see after the firm's epic disappointment of 2016: a failed Phase 3 study in older adults evaluating lead product candidate RSV F, a vaccine designed to treat respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)- one that could not improve upon the initial success seen in its significantly smaller Phase 2 study. By around this time last year, the stock had seen a stark 84% nose dive, leaving Nvax's future a bleak one at that. Finally, the sun is starting to come out for the biotech firm.
Cantor analyst William Tanner eyes flu vaccine candidate NanoFlu as the salvation Novavax has been seeking, cheekily adding, "NanoFlu could be just what the Dr. ordered."
True, investors may have been less than thrilled to see the RSV vaccine candidate was not advanced in a new Phase 3 trial, with the NVAX team rather diverting focus to a Phase 2 study in subjects with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). However, drawing attention to elderly patients suffering from COPD "makes sense" to the analyst, who comments, "Despite the appearance that the market opportunity may have gotten smaller, we are mindful that the company can test the vaccine in the broader population later."
In fact, considering most focus has been pulled to the elderly coupled with maternal RSV vaccine programs, not only does Tanner deem the seasonal flu data as an "encouraging" stride in the right direction, he wagers the Street is undervaluing the firm's proprietary seasonal influenza vaccine program- "likely the most important information shared." Rival Sanofi's Fluzone High-Dose vaccine might have a "superior" dark horse on its hands.
Tanner asserts, "We believe NVAX's vaccine pipeline possess the potential to make a significant contribution to the prevention of infection by important pathogens. We believe, however, that it may take some time before broad investor interest builds given the failure of the Phase 3 Resolve trial of the RSV vaccine in elderly subjects. Capital constraints likely prevent NVAX from advancing the pipeline in the manner the company may have been able had Resolve been successful. While we believe it reasonable that the company could access non-dilutive capital through partnering of strategic assets, we believe investors may want to see evidence of that activity before being more aggressive on the name."
As such, the analyst surveys clinical prospects from the sidelines, reiterating a Neutral rating on shares of NVAX with a $2 price target, which implies a 102% increase from where the shares last closed. (To watch Tanner's track record, click here)
For the second quarter, Novavax posted $6.7 million in revenue and ($0.16) in EPS, compared to the analyst's projections calling for $6.6 million in revenue and ($0.17) in EPS as well as consensus of $6 million and ($0.15). The biotech firm closed the quarter with $187 million in cash following $32 million in cash burn, not including equity raises. The NVAX management team has tweaked cash burn guidance range between $159 and $169 million, with the analyst looking for $97 million in cash burn by the back half of the year, which takes into account the continuation of PREPARE and nanoparticle flu vaccine trials.
TipRanks analytics showcase NVAX as a Buy. Out of 3 analysts polled by TipRanks in the last 3 months, 1 is bullish on Novavax stock while 2 remain sidelined. With a return potential of nearly 77%, the stock's consensus target price stands at $1.75.
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