LONDON (REUTERS) - Novavax's Covid-19 vaccine was 96 per cent effective in preventing cases caused by the original version of the coronavirus in a late-stage trial conducted in the United Kingdom, the company said on Thursday (March 11), moving it a step closer to regulatory approval.
There were no cases of severe illness or deaths among those who got the vaccine, the company said, in a sign that it could stop the worse effects of new variants that have cropped up.
The vaccine was also about 86 per cent effective in protecting against the more contagious virus variant first discovered and now prevalent in Britain.
It was about 90 per cent effective overall, combining data from people infected with both versions of the coronavirus.
Novavax shares jumped 22 per cent in after hours trading to US$229.
They were trading below US$10 on Jan 21, 2020, when the company announced it was developing a coronavirus vaccine.
In a smaller trial conducted in South Africa - where volunteers were primarily exposed to another newer, more contagious variant widely circulating there and spreading around the world - the Novavax vaccine was 55 per cent effective, based on people without HIV, but still fully prevented severe illness.
Novavax Chief Medical Officer Filip Dubovsky said the performance in South Africa suggests there may still be a case for using it in areas where the South African variant is dominant.
Novavax is also developing new formulations of its vaccine to protect against emerging variants and plans to initiate clinical testing of these shots in the second quarter of this year.
Results from the final analysis of the UK trial were largely in line with interim data released in January.
The company expects to use the data to submit for regulatory authorisation in various countries. It is not clear when it will seek US authorisation or if regulators will require it to complete an ongoing trial in the United States.
Novavax expects data from a 30,000-person trial in the United States and Mexico by early April.
Mr Dubovsky said that Novavax is still planning to file for authorisation from UK regulators early in the second quarter of 2021.
The UK trial, which enrolled more than 15,000 people aged 18 to 84, assessed efficacy of the vaccine during a period with high transmission of the British virus variant now circulating widely.
The shot's effectiveness in the South Africa trial declined to around 49 per cent when the analysis included data from HIV-positive participants.
Novavax started a rolling submission of its vaccine data to the Britain's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in mid-January, which should help speed the approval process.
The vaccine could be cleared for use in the United States as soon as May if US regulators decide the British data is enough to make a decision. It could take a couple of months longer if they insist on first seeing data from the US trial, its chief executive told Reuters earlier this month.
"Ultimately, they have to decide whether the data we can bring to the table is adequate or whether they would prefer to wait on data from our US study," Mr Dubovsky said on Thursday.
Novavax's vaccine production plants should all be fully functional by April, executives said on a March investor call.
The drugmaker expects to have tens of millions of doses stockpiled and ready to ship in the United States when it receives authorisation, chief executive officer Stanley Erck told Reuters.
Novavax plans to produce its two-shot vaccine at eight manufacturing locations, including the Serum Institute of India.
If authorised, it would follow three Covid-19 vaccines previously approved for use in Britain from Pfizer and partner BioNTech, Moderna and the AstraZeneca shot developed with Oxford University.
The Maryland-based company has received US$1.6 billion (S$2.14 billion) from the US government in funding for the vaccine trial and to secure 100 million doses.