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Novavax, Inc. (NASDAQ:NVAX) Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

Novavax, Inc. (NASDAQ:NVAX) Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript February 28, 2024

Novavax, Inc. misses on earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $-1.44 EPS, expectations were $-0.49. NVAX isn't one of the 30 most popular stocks among hedge funds at the end of the third quarter (see the details here).

Operator: Good morning and welcome to Novavax Fourth Quarter 2023 Financial Results and Operational Highlights Conference Call. All participants will be in a listen-only mode. [Operator Instructions] After today's presentation, there will be an opportunity to ask questions. [Operator Instructions] Please note this event is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Erika Schultz, Senior Director. Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Erika Schultz: Good morning and thank you all for joining us today to discuss our fourth quarter and full year 2023 operational highlights and financial results. A press release announcing our results is currently available on our website at novavax.com, and an audio archive of this conference call will be available on our website later today. Please turn to Slide 2. Before we begin with prepared remarks, I need to remind you that this presentation includes forward-looking statements, including information relating to the future of Novavax, its key strategic priorities, operating plans, objective, and prospects, full year 2024 financial guidance, the amount and impact of Novavax's cost reduction plans, its future financial or business performance, conditions or strategies, its partnerships, anticipated timing and outcome of future regulatory filings and actions, and the ongoing development, marketing opportunities, manufacturing capacity, and the future availability of our vaccine candidates, and key upcoming milestones.

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Each forward-looking statement contained in this presentation is subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected in such statements. Additional information regarding these factors appears under the heading Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements in the slide deck we issued this morning and under the heading Risk Factors, and our most recent Form 10-K and subsequent Form 10-Q filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and available at www.sec.gov and on our website at www.novavax.com. The forward-looking statements in this presentation speak only as of the original date of this presentation and we undertake no obligation to update or revise any of these statements.

Please turn to Slide 3. Joining me today is John Jacobs, our President and CEO, who will provide a review of our progress this past year focusing on our three key priorities looking towards the future. Additionally, John Trizzino, our President and Chief Commercial Officer, will provide an update on our commercial activities; and Dr. Filip Dubovsky, President of Research and Development, will discuss our clinical development and pipeline. Finally, Jim Kelly, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer, will provide an overview of our financial results. I would now like to hand over the call to John Jacobs. Please turn to Slide 4.

John Jacobs: Thank you, Erika, and thank you, everyone, for joining us. I'm pleased to be with you today along with the members of our executive team to reflect on our fourth quarter and full year 2023 financial results and operating highlights and to discuss our priorities for 2024. In 2023, we made significant progress in our priorities, strengthening our foundation and helping to position us for success in 2024 and beyond. Throughout the year, we kept you updated on the progress we were making against our three priorities, which were, number one, deliver an updated product for the fall vaccination season. Number two, reduce our rate of spend, manage our cash flow, and evolve our scale and structure. And finally, number three, leverage our technology platform, our capabilities, and our assets to drive additional value beyond new Nuvaxovid alone.

So let's take a look back at 2023 and what we were able to accomplish in these three key areas of focus for Novavax. Under priority one, deliver our updated vaccine for the fall season. All of us at Novavax are very proud that this fall we delivered on this priority. And in the face of a COVID market that was smaller than we and many others had projected, we were able to achieve $1 billion of revenue for the full year 2023, including fourth quarter total revenue of $291 million. Despite this success, we also had some misses and were disappointed in our U.S. market performance last season. Last season was a transitional season and the first fully commercial one for us in the U.S. market, and we intend to make improvements in key areas for 2024.

Later on in our presentation, John Trizzino will discuss this topic in more detail. Priority number two, reduce our rate of spend, manage our cash flow, and evolve our scale and structure. 2023 was a pivotal year for the COVID market and for Novavax, as it was the first year post-pandemic and represented the first chapter in our new journey as a company post-pandemic. A key priority for Novavax in 2023 was to scale the organization appropriately and reduce our spend to better align with the evolving market opportunity. To that end, we took decisive action to reduce our expenses and our scale. We entered 2023 with approximately $2.5 billion in current liabilities and over the course of the year reduced that figure by over $800 million. And with the resolution of the Gavi arbitration, this number should be reduced further by another $500 million.

In addition, we reduced our total operating expenses by over $1.1 billion in 2023, almost $150 million ahead of our stated target. And finally, under priority three, leveraging our technology platform, our capabilities and our assets, to drive additional value beyond Nuvaxovid alone. During 2023, we were able to outline a faster path forward for our flu/COVID combination vaccine program with a potential launch as soon as 2026. We are still on track to initiate a Phase 3 study this fall, and last week the FDA confirmed the data requirements to achieve accelerated approval. Dr. Filip Dubovsky will provide details later on the call on this matter. So, looking ahead to 2024 and beyond, I would like to say with 2023 now behind us, we intend to build upon our successes, learn from our disappointments and drive towards a successful 2024.

In this second chapter of our new journey post-pandemic, over the next two seasons, our focus will be on share growth in the COVID market, further streamlining our business model and preparing the market for a successful launch of our combination vaccine, which we anticipate in 2026. When achieved, the launch of our combination vaccine will mark our third and potentially most exciting chapter yet post-pandemic, allowing us to expand beyond a one product company. When combined with the potential both organic and inorganic product expansion, this further supports our vision of becoming a leading global vaccine innovator. Filip will give an update on our combination program shortly through the course of this presentation. Before handing it over to the rest of the management team, I want to outline our three main priorities for 2024.

So please turn to Slide 5. Our first priority is to deliver an updated product for the 2024-2025 fall vaccination season with a more competitive presentation, broader retail availability and early availability in the market with the goal of capturing increased share. Our second priority is to independently launch the Phase 3 trial of our COVID-flu combination vaccine product and showcase more of what our scientific platform is capable of through the generation and sharing of new clinical data. Finally, our third priority is to continue the evolution of Novavax with our eyes firmly on the future opportunity, further reducing our operating expenses and enhancing our processes, and while maintaining our capabilities so we can deliver on our intended business objectives.

We are excited about the prospects ahead of us as we enter the second chapter of our post-pandemic journey. Our base plans, should we succeed in executing them in 2024 and 2025, promise to place Novavax in a stronger, leaner position, ready to launch our new combination vaccine and accelerate the company towards profitability and significant growth potential. Now I would like to hand it over to additional members of the team to discuss our results from the quarter in more detail, beginning with John Trizzino for our commercial updates. John?

John Trizzino: Thank you, John. Please turn to Slide 6. As John explained, 2023 was a year of significant change for our business and we have learned many lessons that are allowing us to better position ourselves for a stronger 2024-2025 COVID vaccination season. I would like to focus today's update on how we plan to translate these lessons into action, with a goal to grow share in each of our key regions as well as the changes we've made to our commercial strategy. Please turn to Slide 7. First, I would like to provide some high level context on 2023 and the opportunities in 2024. Full year 2023 product sales were $531 million, which includes $251 million in the fourth quarter. Over 90% of that came from APA sales from Europe, Australia and New Zealand, with the remainder of our product sales in the U.S., Canada, Singapore, Korea and Taiwan markets.

Importantly, we entered 2024 with over $1 billion outstanding in expected APA contract value, with deliveries planned for 2024 through 2026. For 2024, our XBB remaining product sales include Q1 APA deliveries for Europe and then for the southern hemisphere and APA sales to Australia and New Zealand upon regulatory approval. We also see incremental opportunity for the private market this year in the UK, as well as the potential for CDC to recommend an additional springtime dose for individuals 65 and over, on which ACIP is meeting to discuss today. Please turn to Slide 8. As John mentioned earlier, we learned a lot in 2023, which was our first year competing in a dynamic, post-pandemic, U.S. commercial market. We successfully secured regulatory authorization and approval for our updated vaccine in key markets around the world and made significant deliveries under our APA agreements.

In the U.S., several factors related to our five dose product presentation and our timing to market entry impacted our ability to gain market share. However, factors outside of our control, namely the disappointing COVID market size at just over 30 million doses and the fact that the retail channel accounted for over 95% of vaccinations also led to U.S. performance below our expectations. We continue to believe that the U.S. market holds opportunity for Novavax. In the U.S., we achieved some important milestones that should provide an opportunity for a much better performance in 2024. We built significant levels of awareness for the first time in the U.S. market over 80% aided awareness and have seen pockets of rapid uptake, where in some retail outlets, we saw up to 10% share when we were carried on an even playing field regarding pharmacy processes and availability.

For 2024, we are focused on being in market in early September, which we anticipate as the start of the vaccination season. We also intend to offer our vaccination in a prefilled syringe and if approved, under full BLA licensure. We know that in the first post-pandemic season, COVID vaccinations overwhelmingly took place in pharmacies, so we have recalibrated and streamlined our customer engagement teams to focus on this channel. Today, we are already leveraging the relationships built this past season and are currently at the negotiating table with the top major retailers who drove 90% of the pharmacy business last season, potentially setting the stage for expanded access to our updated vaccine in the top national and regional retail change.

Additionally, we believe that if we achieve early September delivery, a prefilled syringe and BLA approval, we can secure a meaningfully improved market share. We especially see opportunity in the 65-plus segment, which had the highest vaccination rates of 42% last season, and this is where we plan to concentrate our promotional spend and an effort to convert that market to Novavax vaccine shots and arms. We are also closely watching the ACIP meeting today, which will potentially result in a recommendation for spring vaccination for high-risk groups including those over 65 and increased opportunity to benefit from our updated vaccine. Finally, we are also making important progress on our objective of on-time delivery. We are working closely with the FDA on a rolling submission of our BLA.

Please turn to Slide 9. Now let's talk about markets outside the U.S., starting with Europe, which converts to a commercial market this year for the first time. Our APA in the European Commission ended in 2023 and we are now entering for the first time a commercial market opportunity in which despite strong competitive pressure from mRNA’s APAs, we see revenue potential for our Nuvaxovid vaccine in Italy, Spain and France as well as in the UK. In these markets, our focus will be on delivering a single dose presentation with timely availability. In the UK, we are planning for the launch of a private market featuring Nuvaxovid. The Health Security Agency recently updated its green book to include our vaccine and discussions are underway with leading retailers and occupational health providers.

We are already seeing interest in potential orders for our Nuvaxovid vaccine. Finally, in Asia-Pacific, remains an opportunity for us for the next two seasons through the expected deliveries under existing APAs. Overall, our commercial efforts in Asia-Pacific remain focused on Australia and our largest APA global market as well as New Zealand, Singapore and Taiwan. We expect approval of our updated vaccine in Australia and New Zealand soon. Finally, in Canada, we continue to execute on our APA. Our efforts are focused on securing NACI recommendation on par with mRNAs and driving awareness of our differentiated vaccine with health care providers and consumers. Now please turn to Slide 10. As John noted, we have made significant changes to our organization to how we work, to our scope and scale and how we are working tirelessly to coordinate the many critical activities needed to be ready for a successful fall season.

A closeup of a vial of the biotechnology company's vaccines.
A closeup of a vial of the biotechnology company's vaccines.

Across all key areas for the CMC, to regulatory, to our commercial efforts, we are coordinating our workflows and streamlining our processes and remain singularly focused on operational execution for the upcoming 2024-2025 season in all of our key markets. We continue to believe and our data indicates that there is significant demand for Nuvaxovid's protein-based vaccine and that Nuvaxovid will play a meaningful role across the U.S., Europe and the rest of the world. As we focus on the future, we expect continued transformation in our business with commercial product sales continuing to grow and to contribute to Novavax's total revenue mix over the next two seasons as the pandemic era APA sales agreements mature and reach their conclusion between now and 2026.

We believe that the market is migrating towards seasonal combination respiratory vaccines, especially for flu and COVID. Our market research shows that over half of the flu market is anticipated to convert to combination products and that 25% to 30% of healthcare providers and consumers prefer a protein-based option. And to-date, we believe we are ahead of other non-mRNA competition in combo product development. We think we are well-positioned to capture our fair share of that market opportunity by bringing together our technology platform, Matrix-M adjuvant, proven COVID vaccine and an outstanding flu vaccine candidate with positive Phase 3 data. To discuss this and other key R&D updates, I would like to hand it over to Filip.

Filip Dubovsky: Thanks, John. Please turn to Slide 11 and 12. I want to cover two R&D priorities for 2024. The first priority is the delivery of updated variant vaccines. I will share clinical and real world evidence about the performance of our XBB containing vaccine before I update you on our approach for the 2024, 2025 season. Our second priority is launching the next phase of our COVID influenza combination program. Like John said, the program is on track and we have received FDA guidance of how to achieve accelerated approval. Before I move into my slides, I want to reflect on the data we have accumulated over this past year and that continues to support the promise of our nanoparticle and adjuvant technology. We continue to see broad, long lived immune responses in our clinical studies while maintaining a favorable reactogenicity profile and this has proven to be true for our initial COVID vaccine, our XBB.1.5 vaccine, the R21 malaria vaccine, as well as our experimental COVID influenza combination vaccine.

And we’ve also started to accumulate real world effectiveness data that shows the immune responses seen in our studies translate into disease prevention in the real world. Okay. Let’s move to Slide 13 and review where we are with strain change starting with a summary of last year’s update. Last summer, the strain was updated to XBB.1.5 and we ran a clinical study to reconfirm our strain change approach and evaluate the vaccine’s performance. The vaccine achieved its co-primary endpoint of inducing robust XBB.1.5 neutralization and circumversion responses.

,: Now, on the right hand side of the slide are local and systemic reactogenicity symptoms. Despite the study subjects having received a minimum of three prior doses of mRNA vaccine, our tolerability profile was very favorable and this has been reported multiple times in academic publications. Okay. Let’s go to Slide 14, which depicts how these immune responses translate into clinical effectiveness. On February 1, the CDC published early season COVID vaccine effectiveness estimates. They concluded that the overall adjusted vaccine effectiveness of the three vaccine brands combined was 54% and that included protection against JN.1, which was estimated to account for about 39% of the symptomatic cases. The effectiveness was not calculated by vaccine manufacturer or platform, but the vaccine specific case counts were included in the publication and are depicted on the right hand side of the slide.

This appears favorable for Novavax. The adjustment factors are not available, so individual vaccine effectiveness cannot be calculated. Although, this part of the study captures a small number of Novavax cases, we calculated the crude relative rate reduction for our vaccine, which was 75%. The imbalance in the case counts and the relative rate reduction gives us confidence our vaccine is providing protection. Okay. Let’s go to Slide 15 for this year’s variant. JN.1 is causing the vast majority of disease globally, including in the U.S. is depicted on the left hand side in purple dots. As a recombinant protein vaccine company, we make many of the variants and cross test them against each other. On the right hand side of the slide is antigenic cartography depicting the antigen distance between XBB.1.5 and JN.1, which is over four antigenic units and represents over 16 fold reduction in immune responses.

Despite the fact I showed you data, the XBB vaccine induces good immune responses and those translate into real world protection from the CDC publication, we believe it is appropriate to update the vaccine to protect from future drift variants. Updating will narrow the antigen existence and should future proof the vaccine effectiveness when subsequent mutations occur. Therefore, we’ve advanced JN.1 into commercial manufacture while continuing to evaluate upcoming variants. Okay. Let’s go to Slide 16 for a brief update of our COVID influenza combination program. We’ve been interacting with the FDA on the design of our Phase 3 program and the accelerated regulatory approval pathway. We have agreement on the study design, study endpoints, trivalent comparators and size of licensure enabling safety database.

We’re still on track to initiate the Phase 3 study in the fall. Based on supportive data from our Phase 2 study, which is shown on the right hand side of the slide, we have confidence in achieving the agreed upon endpoints. The study is designed to compare the immune responses in two age groups, 50 to 65 and greater than 65 to licensed age recommended influenza vaccines as well as our own COVID vaccine. The granting of accelerated approval will occur after the data is reviewed by FDA and mean infill therapeutic benefit is demonstrated. We're also planning a lot-to-lot consistency study in the fourth quarter of the year, which should enable a regulatory filing in 2025 and potential launch in the 2026 season. Okay, let me hand over to Jim for a financial update.

Jim Kelly: Thank you, Filip. Please turn to Slide 17. This morning, we announced our financial results for the fourth quarter and full year 2023. Details of our results can be found in our press release issued today and in our 10-K filing. Please turn to Slide 18. We are focused on improving the financial health and performance of Novavax to enable long-term value creation. Towards that goal, I'll share a few of the key themes for 2023 and a look towards 2024 and beyond. For the full year 2023, Novavax recorded total revenue of $1 billion and significantly improved our balance sheet profile by reducing current liabilities by $825 million. In addition, the Gavi settlement announced last week removes the risk of arbitration with Gavi and will further reduce short-term liabilities by over $500 million.

As we continue to transform Novavax into a more lean and agile organization, we reduced 2023 total operating expenses by $1.1 billion or 41%, and exceeded our savings targets for R&D plus SG&A by $150 million. As we look to 2024, we are targeting R&D and SG&A expenses of between $700 million and $800 million with the intent to drive them below $750 million midpoint if possible, as we continue to resize our organization. We ended 2023 with cash and accounts receivable of $881 million. In addition, as we enter 2024, we have over $1 billion in APA contract value outstanding with expected deliveries over the next three years. We believe this positions us well as we focus our investments to establish new commercial COVID markets and advance our CIC program.

Please turn to Slide 19. Turning to a more detailed view of our 2023 financial results, I will provide commentary on our fourth quarter 2023 financial results with specific focus on revenue and COGS. For the fourth quarter of 2023, we recorded total revenue of $291 million compared to $357 million in the same period in 2022. Our product sales of $251 million in the fourth quarter of 2023 were primarily related to APA deliveries to Europe and Canada, plus commercial market product sales in the U.S., South Korea and Taiwan. Grants of $38 million for the fourth quarter of 2023 reflect the realization of the full value of the $1.8 billion U.S. government funding agreement. For the full year 2023, our total revenue of $984 million was consistent with our guidance.

In the U.S. market, product sales for the 2023-2024 vaccination season are now expected to come in below $25 million, which is less than our prior target. That said, we are closely monitoring the potential for the CDC to recommend a spring COVID-19 booster, and we'll assess how that could impact demand and potential sales in the first half of 2024. Our cost of sales for the fourth quarter of 2023 were $155 million as compared to $182 million in the same period in 2022. These periods include $30 million and $99 million, respectively, related to excess, obsolete or expired inventory and losses on firm purchase commitments under third-party supply agreements. Please turn to Slide 20. We are committed to creating a more lean and agile organization to align with the company's market opportunities.

To advance that goal, over the past year, we've reduced our workforce by over 30% compared to the first quarter of 2023. We have also reduced our full year 2023, R&D and SG&A by over $500 million compared to the full year 2022. This result was approximately $150 million better than our original target, and we did so while maintaining core business capabilities and progressing our combination vaccine program. For 2024, we are targeting combined R&D and SG&A expenses of $700 million to $800 million. In addition, we are prioritizing improvements to our long-term supply chain efficiency, including exploring the sale of our Czech Republic manufacturing facility. Please turn to Slide 21, where I'd like to discuss progress on our balance sheet and liability management.

During 2023, we reduced the company's current liabilities by $825 million and with the recently announced Gavi settlement, we will further reduce current liabilities by over $500 million in 2024. Of note, the Gavi settlement provides for an equitable resolution of our differences and spreads any remaining liabilities over five years, allowing us to better manage cash flows and make appropriate investments to grow our business. When assessed on a present value and cost of capital basis, we estimate that the cost of the settlement to be in the range of $300 million to $400 million. Please turn to Slide 22. Now turning to financial guidance with an emphasis on our total revenue. For the full year 2024, we expect to achieve total revenue of between $800 million and $1 billion.

Our projected total revenue includes $500 million to $600 million of APA sales based on expected dose delivery schedules and non-APA related revenue of $300 million to $400 million from a combination of commercial market product sales plus royalties and other revenue from our partner related activities. We have previously guided to first quarter 2024 expected total revenues of approximately $300 million. Based upon a delay to our Australia XBB regulatory review, we now expect APA sales for both Australia and New Zealand, originally anticipated for the first quarter of 2024 to now occur later in 2024 upon their respective authorizations. As a result, our first quarter 2024 total revenue is now expected to be approximately $100 million. If successful in achieving the guidance outlined today, we believe this will support the funding of our operations for the next 12 months.

In our 10-K filing you will see that we have provided an update on our going concern disclosure, specifically that this forecast continues to be subject to significant uncertainty related to revenue for the next 12 months. We look forward to sharing additional updates as we seek to improve Novavax’s financial performance, cost structure and strength to deliver shareholder value. With that, I’d like to turn the call back over to John for some closing remarks.

John Jacobs: Thank you, Jim. Please turn to Slide 23. I am proud of the progress we made in 2023 and the opportunities we have identified that should help us to build a stronger business with our key priorities of executing on the 2024-2025 COVID season, advancing our combination vaccine and creating a more financially stable organization. We are operating a business in a complex and challenging marketplace, which is undergoing significant change, but which also offers immense opportunity to positively impact global public health and drive significant value creation in the future. I would like to thank all of our employees and their continued work in advancing our business. Together, we remain committed to generating successful performance and value creation for all of our stakeholders. And with that, we will now take your questions.

Operator: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, we will now begin the question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] Your first question comes from the line of Roger Song from Jefferies. Please go ahead.

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