Novavax Expects Its Updated COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate to Work on Circulating

Novavax’s updated COVID-19 vaccine candidate is likely to protect against circulating omicron variants, according to a company official.

Filip Dubovsky, the company’s head of research and development, said that the shot targets the currently dominant XBB.1.5 but that it should provide protection against other strains circulating.

He told Reuters that the company is also working on shots to target XBB.1.16 and XBB.2.3 but those aren’t as far along as the XBB.1.15 candidate.

Novavax relies on a protein-based vaccine that takes longer to produce than the mRNA shots from Pfizer and Moderna.

The Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine panel is set to meet next week to discuss which strain this year’s COVID-19 booster shots should target. The decision is of the utmost importance to Novavax, which earlier this year raised doubts about its ability to stay in business. It recently announced cost-control measures, including layoffs of nearly 500 employees, to help it stay afloat.

Novavax’s original COVID-19 shot rolled out much later than shots from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. It’s the company’s only commercial product after its 35 years in business.

The company last month announced positive data on its flu and COVID-19 combination vaccine candidate, saying it showed a “robust” immune response in its trial. It also was well-tolerated and showed a “reassuring” preliminary safety profile.

Experts hope that combination flu and COVID-19 vaccines could increase uptake of both shots in the future.

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