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Vaxart’s Flu Vaccine Looks Promising, But Its Future Is Uncertain

Tom Taulli

Thursday was a rough day for most stocks. But there were some exceptions. Just look at biotech company Vaxart (NASDAQ:VXRT), whose shares soared by a sizzling 78% to $5.25.

So why the big move? Of course, the company got some favorable news from one of its clinical trials. In a Phase 2 study, patients taking its H1 influenza vaccine showed a 39% reduction in illness compared to those taking a placebo. To put this into perspective, patients taking Sanofi’s (NYSE:SNY) Fluzone influenza vaccine have had 27% less illness than those who received placebos. Fluzone, the leading treatment in the category, must be administered through injection.

VXRT’s treatment is unique because it is administered through tablets, which are much more convenient than injections. And based on the latest trial, it appears that the tablet, like injectable flu vaccines. generated protective hemagglutinin inhibition, or HAI, antibodies.

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Here’s what the company’s CEO, Dr. Wouter Latour, MD, said in a press release: “In all our studies to date, we have seen both systemic and mucosal immune responses, and this latest data provides solid evidence that our vaccines indeed protect through mucosal immunity, the first line of defense against mucosal infections. We believe this clearly differentiates our oral vaccines from conventional injectable vaccines, and strongly suggests that vaccines based on Vaxart’s proprietary vector adjuvant system could be optimal to protect against mucosal pathogens, including some of the major public health threats such as flu, norovirus, RSV and many others.”

In light of the data, it should be no surprise that investors are buying up VXRT stock. The company’s market opportunity is massive. According to Datamonitor, spending on vaccines in the U.S. and five major European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Span and the UK) is forecast to go from $2.7 billion in 2016-2017 to $3.4 billion by 2025-26.

Bottom Line on VXRT Stock

VXRT went public last year through a reverse merger. The public shell involved in the deal belonged to Aviragen Therapeutics, which imploded because of two drug failures. The destruction of Aviragen highlights the high risks of early-stage biotech companies. So for VXRT, success is far from guaranteed.

But there is something else to consider about Vaxart stock: its liquidity. Keep in mind that it only has about $23.9 million in the bank. Much of its cash flows come from royalties generated from drugs that it has previously developed.

According to an SEC filing: “Absent additional funding or adjustments to currently planned operating activities, and in view of the uncertainties regarding future royalty revenue….., management believes that the Company’s cash and cash equivalents of $23.9 million held as of June 30, 2018, are sufficient to fund the Company into, but possibly not beyond, the second quarter of 2019.”

Basically, it seems like a good bet that VXRT will need to get more financing, which could be dilutive to its current shareholders. After all, the market capitalization of VXRT stock is only $43 million.

So it’s probably best to hold off on buying VXRT stock right now.

Tom Taulli is the author of High-Profit IPO StrategiesAll About Commodities and All About Short SellingFollow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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