(Reuters) - U.S. biotech company Novavax Inc has joined the race to test coronavirus vaccine candidates on humans and said it was targeting production of over a billion doses of its vaccine candidate next year.
The company, which enrolled its first participants on Monday, said it expected preliminary data on safety and indicators of an immune response from the trial in July.
Shares of the company jumped nearly 15% to $52.97 on Tuesday, a day after U.S. trading resumed following Monday's Memorial Day closure.
The announcement of Novavax's vaccine trial comes as drugmakers pause clinical trials on drugs for other ailments to focus on COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus that has resulted in more than 346,000 deaths globally.
Novavax aims to produce over a billion vaccine doses next year and would ship some vaccines itself and others through partnerships with non-profit organizations and drugmakers, Novavax's Chief Executive Officer Stanley Erck said in a CNBC interview.
"This is one of the largest opportunities or obligations to distribute vaccines globally," Erck said on CNBC.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday said that 10 experimental vaccines were being tested on humans, including the Novavax compound.
Groups including CanSino, Moderna and an alliance between Oxford University and AstraZeneca have moved or are close to moving on to enlarged trials from initial testing on small groups of participants. Novavax said the Phase 1 trial in Australia would involve about 130 healthy participants aged 18 to 59, with a second phase to be conducted later in several countries, including the United States.
The Phase 2 trial will assess immunity, safety and COVID-19 disease reduction in a broader age range, Novavax said.
Experts predict a vaccine could take 12 to 18 months to develop.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh and Manas Mishra in Bengaluru and Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt; Editing by Christopher Cushing, David Goodman and Shinjini Ganguli)