- Novavax’s longtime chief executive Stanley Erck will step down from his position later this month, handing the leadership reins of the COVID-19 vaccine developer to John Jacobs, who was most recently CEO of Harmony Biosciences.
- Erck, who has led Novavax for the past 12 years, will continue to serve as an adviser to the company for another 15 months, the company said in its Jan. 9 statement announcing the transition.
- The departure marks a turning point for Novavax, which has had Erck at its head for one-third of its 36-year corporate history. But it wasn’t until 2021 that the Gaithersburg, Maryland-based company won regulatory authorization for its first product, the COVID-19 vaccine that’s since gained clearance in the U.S.
Novavax toiled for years on vaccines for various infectious diseases, including SARS and respiratory syncytial virus. It pivoted during the pandemic and successfully developed a COVID-19 shot that, in a 2021 late-stage trial, proved 90% effective at preventing coronavirus disease.
"Stan led Novavax from a clinical development organization to a global commercial vaccines company during a worldwide pandemic,” said James Young, chair of Novavax’s board of directors, in a statement.
Hopes were high that the vaccine, built using more traditional technology, could be a complement to the messenger RNA shots from Pfizer and Moderna, and help address global supply shortfalls.
Yet, while its vaccine won regulatory clearance in several dozen countries, Novavax ran into manufacturing issues that hindered its rollout. And by the time the Food and Drug Administration OK’d the shot in July 2022, three-quarters of adults in the U.S. had already received two doses of another vaccine, limiting Novavax’s market opportunity as Pfizer and Moderna moved forward with new boosters.
Shares in the company, which had fallen by 90% over the 12 months through Friday, rose by double digits on Monday.
Novavax is also working on an influenza vaccine and a combination shot that could be used for preventing both flu and COVID-19 — work that will now be overseen by Jacobs.
CureVac, another COVID-19 vaccine developer, on Monday also announced its CEO Franz Haas would step down at the end of March. He’ll be succeeded by Alexander Zehnder, a veteran pharmaceutical executive who’s currently global head of oncology at Sanofi.