Novavax, the little-known Maryland company that received $1.6 billion from the federal government to produce an experimental coronavirus vaccine, announced encouraging results in two preliminary studies on Tuesday.
In one study, 56 volunteers produced a high level of antibodies against the virus without any dangerous side effects. In the other, researchers found that the vaccine strongly protected monkeys from coronavirus infections.
There are other vaccines that are further along with clinical trials, but Novavax’s stands out because it is protein-based — the same proven technology used for existing vaccines against diseases like shingles — which could make it safer and easier to manufacture in large amounts.
Our colleague Carl Zimmer, a science writer and author of “A Planet of Viruses,” thinks there will be a number of coronavirus vaccines that will turn out to be safe and effective. “I think that there will be a patchwork,” he told us. India, China, and Russia, could all end up with their own successful vaccines, he said, and “there may be vaccines that are better for old people and other groups.”
Despite the promising initial results, it won’t be possible to say whether the Novavax vaccine is safe and effective until the company conducts a large-scale study — known as Phase 3 — comparing people who get vaccinated to people who get a placebo.
The Times’s Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker monitors vaccines that have reached trials in humans, along with a selection that are still being tested in cells or animals.