Novavax made headlines in 2020 because the company received $1.6 billion from the Trump Administration. The funds are the largest contract of its type for this struggling organization, one which has never brought a usable vaccine to the marketplace.
Why did Novavax get so much attention when other pharmaceutical companies with a better record of success were on the same path? In a rare move of bipartisanship in American politics, executives from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation promoted this small biotech company’s potential.
Republican officials in the White House agreed. The company uses moth cells to create crucial molecules faster than a typical vaccine, providing an advantage during the pandemic era that other companies couldn’t match.
The Company Was on the Verge of Collapse
Novavax made the push to the federal government for the $1.6 billion award after receiving almost $400 million from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, headed by Dr. Richard Hatchett.
The funds are a dramatic turnaround for a company that was on the verge of collapse. After receiving the award, stock prices surged 30% almost overnight.
Novavax was on the verge of collapse. Their leading vaccine candidate was a product intended to prevent a deadly virus in newborns. It had failed for the second time in three years, causing the stock to trade so low that NASDAQ was threatening to delist it.
The company was raising cash by selling its manufacturing facilities.
How could the agency get so much money so quickly to produce a successful vaccine that it had never done before? The answer lies in a secretive mission called Operation Warp Speed.
What Is Operation Warp Speed?
Operation Warp Speed is a public-private partnership (PPP) initiated by the Trump Administration in April 2020. The goal of this effort was to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of vaccines to stop COVID-19.
Congress allocated about $10 billion for this effort, including $3 billion for research through the National Institutes of Health.
Novavax received the $1.6 billion offer with one condition: it had to prove that its clinical trials were successful. If that happened, the money would help them to produce 100 million doses of the vaccine.
BioNTech and Pfizer received a $2 billion order with the same stipulation, getting 100 million doses of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. In July 2020, GSK and Sanofi got funding of $2.1 billion.