Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with Novavax, Inc. (NASDAQ:NVAX) CEO Stanley Erck on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” (M-F, 6AM-9AM ET) today, Thursday, December 23rd. Following is a link to video on CNBC.com:
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Novavax CEO: We Can Now Make Covid Vaccine At Competitive Commercial Levels
JOE KERNEN: Novavax says early data found its COVID booster showed immune responses against the Omicron variant. Joining us now is Stanley Erck, Novavax CEO. We were talking earlier, Stanley about the relative attractiveness of Novavax versus some of the messenger RNA vaccines due to the ability to store it more easily and maybe transport it more easily and it, its shelf life is quite a bit longer. Is there, is it more your technique, which is actually putting the spike protein I guess it's in, you can explain it to us, in a nanoparticle? You've isolated it, manufactured the spike protein itself and you put that antigen into, into a patient to elicit the vaccine or the immune response. Are there other advantages to that in your view?
STANLEY ERCK: Well, I think you've done a good job of describing our product. Yeah, there's, I mean, everybody has to have a good efficacy profile. We do. We have as good as anybody else's, or maybe better. You have to want to have a good safety, benign safety profile. We do. You want to actually have it usable. We store it in a liquid in single vials so all you have to do is stick one needle into the vial and you got a shot instead of having to mix it at bedside and, and the storage and distribution is we can get it in all parts of the world so it's nice to have that combination. The other, the other common, the other effect that we want to make sure we have which is what we announced yesterday, do you want make sure it works against a variety of variants and, and so it has to have broad neutralizing, stimulate broad neutralizing antibodies against the Alpha and Beta the Delta, now the Omicron variant. That's what we're demonstrating yesterday is that we have very broad immune response to the vaccine so that anytime the vaccine tries to escape, we're there and I think that's what we’ve shown with our data today.
KERNEN: The way that you make this vaccine and the, the mechanism of how it works, do you think the side effect profile or the safety profile differs from these newer messenger RNA vaccines? Or do you think that the safety profile and side effect profile are basically the same?
ERCK: Well, we it's hard to compare exactly side by side but, but we have when you look at all of the things that you look at which is you know, pain, headaches, fatigue, a variety of things that you look at, and you, and you look at our profile versus some of the others, we have a much, the word I use is more benign profile, than the others so that that has very few side effects compared to the other vaccines.
KERNEN: And as far as getting up the scale and where this would perhaps take, I'd hate to even say take market share away because we want everyone to get, get any of these, but what's your competitive strategy to make Novavax let’s say the vaccine of choice for people or to make it at least as competitive as the, as the Pfizer and Moderna offerings or even J&J?
ERCK: Sure, well, for all the reasons I just mentioned which is the combination of efficacy and safety and, and distribution ability and long shelf life, all those factors when they come together, you want to have best in class and I think we do. What kept us late later on the market is, is that when we started this pandemic business, we had zero production capacity. So we've now built over the period in lightning speed plants all over the world and so we can now produce at a level in excess of a couple billion doses a year and we've partnered that with partners in India, in the US, Europe, Asia and so we can make, we can now make the product at competitive and commercial levels.
KERNEN: Is it easier to make or the same as the messenger RNA and what about how would you make the next generation let's say you wanted to make an Omicron specific booster, how would you do that? Is it as easy as changing the sequence in an mRNA vaccine?
ERCK: It is virtually as easy. We actually have a history of this. In fact, it’s been published in The New England Journal a few years ago. This is not our first rodeo in terms of pandemics, we've made this is our third Coronavirus vaccine. We've made several pandemic influenza vaccines. We made a pandemic flu vaccine with a new variant a couple of years ago and from the day the sequence was, was discovered until first shot in the arm was 92 days and that's that's remarkable. We’re doing it now. We have, we've made the Omicron variant. We don't know if it's going to replace the current variants or not. But we've made it and, and it's now being put into a GMP manufacturing process that allows to make product scale in January and be in the human trial in the first quarter so, so that that delay that we had while we were building capacity is now behind us.
KERNEN: I know that's an adjuvant and I've had people in the past say that that that might have beneficial effects other than just the spike protein in for T cell immunity or just ramping up the immune system in general. Is that, is that another advantage you would say to this versus—
ERCK: It's a big advantage as it turns out, and we've shown that in, you know, we showed it last year in our flu vaccine where we had a Phase 3 which was that third phase of scale of a clinical trial with the flu vaccine and showed head-to-head against other flu vaccines. We get a much broader immune response just like we're doing with COVID right now. And, and second time is is with, with malaria. We have we have a partnership with the Serum Institute, the world's largest vaccine company who has an antigen and is using it with our adjuvant that we showed that we get a much more potent immune response than the recently licensed GSK vaccine where we get in the high 70s as far as efficacy. It's going to be a game changer for malaria, which is a huge problem and, and we're going to have the same effect with COVID. We showed between 90% and 100% efficacy using this adjuvant very safely.
KERNEN: Excellent, excellent. The more the better and we'll get more and more data on all these things and have a much clearer picture of exactly how all these what I think are all wonder, not drugs but wonder treatments, and it’s a really good idea and people would have that choice, hopefully. Mr. Erck, thank you. We appreciate you—
ERCK: Thanks for having me on.
KERNEN: You’re very welcome.