Novavax exec: Making a coronavirus vaccine could take a long time

The coronavirus that has killed dozens and rattled markets has no immediate cure — and a vaccine could be years in the making, a medical executive told Yahoo Finance.

The Chinese Health Commission confirmed at least 26 people have died due to the Coronavirus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, while hundreds more have been infected. On Friday, the Center for Disease Control identified a second U.S. victim, while France has at least one declared case.

The crisis is not yet reached pandemic proportions, but is making an uncertain global economy even more jittery, while raising the stakes to find a way to prevent more infections.

“You're giving a product to healthy people, so you have to show it is safe and you have to show its efficacious,” Greg Glenn, president of research & development at Novavax (NVAX), told Yahoo Finance’s The Ticker.

This week, Novavax saw its shares skyrocket nearly 60% on the back of the coronavirus fears, as investors bet on companies that could help treat or cure the disease.

Glenn, however, described the timeline to an effective treatment and cure as “extensive.”

He added: “With the emerging infectious disease pathogens, there are wise shortcuts that can be taken. The first vaccine for any of these emerging disease vaccines like SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), Ebola, pandemic flu, are licensed in a four year period.”

Medical staff transfer a patient of a suspected case of a new coronavirus at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong, China January 22, 2020. Picture taken January 22, 2020. cnsphoto via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT.

The World Health Organization says the virus is not yet a global health emergency, a declaration which typically prompts foreign governments to restrict both travel and trade with other countries.

Still, the U.S., Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong — and now France — have all confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

Norovax is working to develop a vaccine against the illness after its successful production if a vaccine to combat the MERS [Middle East respiratory syndrome) and SARS viruses.

And while Glenn explained this is actually a very exciting time for Norovax, big pharma may not have enough motive to work on vaccine development for the coronavirus specifically.

Coronavirus cases confirmed

“The other vaccines that are traditional vaccines really have a market,” Dr. Glenn told Yahoo Finance.

“So companies are incentivized to invest in it because at the end of the day, there'll be a return on investment,” he added. “The emerging disease vaccines to date do not have any return on investments, so that may be changing.”

Glenn said he looked forward to the challenge, however. He called this virus a “test case,” and pointing out that the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus would be a “big advance for public health.”

“There are some very potent groups that are funding these programs,” Glenn stated. “So I'm optimistic that there'll be a meeting of funding and technologies that could, in fact, address this problem.”

Novavax shares, traded on the Nasdaq, closed up 1.83% on Friday at $7.80. The stock is still in the green following a positive note from Oppenheimer analyst Kevin DeGreeter, who called for the company’s share price to hit $13 by 2021, representing a 70% upside from current levels.