6 steps to producing a Novavax investigational vaccine1

Step 1.  After identifying an antigen that can be used to stimulate an immune response against the virus in question, the corresponding gene is modified and inserted into a baculovirus (a type of insect virus).

Step 2. The baculovirus containing the recombinant antigen gene is used to infect cells from a certain type of moth (called Sf9 cells); the baculovirus multiplies (replicates) inside these cells.

Step 3. As part of this replication process, the recombinant antigen gene from the baculovirus enters the Sf9 cell nucleus where it is transcribed into mRNA.

Step 4. The natural machinery in the Sf9 cells translates the mRNA to produce large quantities of the recombinant antigen protein.

Step 5. The recombinant antigen proteins are harvested from the surface of the Sf9 cells, purified, and arranged around a nanoparticle core.

Step 6. The recombinant antigen protein nanoparticles are mixed with the Matrix-M adjuvant to create the investigational vaccine.

Our vaccine technology: disease-agnostic and adaptable

Novavax’ vaccine technology is adaptable. As the SARS-CoV-2 virus evolves, for example, our vaccine can be adjusted to use the version of the spike protein found in new variants.

image of red virus

Recombinant, protein-based nanoparticle designed to immunize against the original strain

image of virus

Recombinant, protein-based nanoparticle designed to immunize against a variant strain

If a new SARS-CoV-2 variant appears, the genetic sequence of the new strain is used to produce an updated version of the recombinant spike protein. We use the same approach described above to produce and test an investigational vaccine that is specific to that new virus variant.

Our approach to vaccines also can be applied to other pathogens. Novavax gained extensive experience applying its nanoparticle technology to  develop vaccine candidates against threats such as influenza and Ebola. 

Combination vaccines

Novavax' vaccine technology enables us to combine more than one type of vaccine nanoparticles into a single, ready-to-use vaccine. Combination vaccines reduce the number of shots required to protect against multiple diseases or strains of an individual virus at once. Simplifying immunizations into fewer shots may make it more likely that people get recommended vaccinations on time, reducing delays in protection.2,3 

Novavax is testing an investigational combination vaccine to simultaneously combat both seasonal influenza and COVID-19. The vaccine uses both the protein from the current COVID-19 virus strain and proteins from three current seasonal influenza viruses as antigens. These antigens are organized into distinct particle complexes, recognized by the immune system. Our Matrix-MTM adjuvant is also a component of this vaccine candidate.

  1. How to produce a Novavax vaccine. 2021. Data on File.
  2. Combination Vaccines. CDC. August 2019. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/why-vaccinate/combination-vaccines.html [Accessed 2 Feb 2022].
  3. Skibinski D, et al. J Glob Infect Dis. 2011;3(1):63-72. doi:10.4103/0974-777X.77298.