Left out of Warp Speed, Novavax scores $60M defense contract for COVID-19 shot

Novavax wasn’t included in the U.S. government’s group of COVID-19 vaccine finalists for Operation Warp Speed, but only days after news of those picks broke, the company has picked up a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense. 

The DoD awarded Novavax $60 million to help produce components of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, dubbed NVX‑CoV2373, in the U.S. Under the contract, Novavax will deliver 10 million doses of the vaccine to the DoD this year. Those doses could be used in mid- and late-stage testing or under an emergency use authorization from the FDA. 

The news follows a series of recent developments for Novavax, which is among dozens of companies involved in the global COVID-19 vaccine race. Last month, the biotech picked up an investment of up to $384 million from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, at the time CEPI’s largest contract ever. 

Also last month, Novavax pushed its program into phase 1 testing. It’s now one of 10 vaccines worldwide in human trials, according to the World Health Organization. This week, the company enlisted AGC Biologics to help manufacture its Matrix-M adjuvant, a component of the vaccine. 

RELATED: After Operation Warp Speed picks 5 finalists, experts question why some vaccines were left out 

Still, the company wasn’t included in the U.S. government’s group of five COVID-19 vaccine finalists, according to a New York Times report earlier this week. The absence was noted by former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb, who said on CNBC the government had picked novel platforms instead of established ones. 

The Operation Warp Speed team picked vaccines from Pfizer, Merck, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna as finalists, according to the Times, leaving off programs from Novavax and Sanofi, among others.