In the race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, the contenders aren’t about to cross the finish line just yet. As the deadly virus resurfaces in several countries, the world is anxiously waiting to see which name will be the first to bring the coveted solution to market. Already underway for months now, it’s still anyone’s game in this battle of the ages.Who is emerging as a likely winner? If you ask 5-star analyst Vernon Bernardino, of H.C. Wainwright, of the 165-plus vaccine candidates (38 in clinical-stage testing) in development, Vaxart’s (VXRT) chances are looking pretty good.Based on the company’s Q2 2020 corporate update, it has reached multiple milestones that position it at the front of the pack. That being said, the analyst cites one accomplishment in particular as deserving of a major shoutout.Bernardino believes its selection to take part in a non-human primate (NHP) challenge study organized and funded by Operation Warp Speed (OWS) is the most “notable” of these milestones. Highlighting the candidate’s “broad potential” in the battle against the virus, the analyst argues the Street might just be underestimating the role it could play.Expounding on this, the H.C. Wainwright analyst stated, “…our positive view of Vaxart’s oral COVID-19 vaccine program advancing was bolstered by its selection for OWS participation, as this, in our opinion, represents recognition by BARDA that oral vaccines tested by Vaxart for other infectious diseases, such as influenza, norovirus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), point to an oral vaccine as a potentially important approach to vaccinating what is likely to be more than 100 million people in the U.S., and perhaps billions of people globally, most of which have no existing immunity to SARS-CoV-2.”The implications of the OWS selection go even further. NHPs are a rare resource for conducting preclinical studies, with only seven primate research centers able to perform NHP studies. In addition, the number of subjects is limited and the waiting lists are long.Given that the task of conducting the NHP challenge study has been assigned to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), it’s unclear what the timeline for completion and release of results will be.Nonetheless, Bernardino remains confident in VXRT’s prospects. “…in line with the pace of progression of competitor COVID-19 vaccine candidates, we expect the NHP study with Vaxart’s vaccine to be given high priority and be conducted quickly. We look for results in late Q3 2020 to be a positive catalyst,” he explained.Accordingly, Bernardino keeps a Buy rating on the stock. The positive assessment also warrants a substantial increase to the price target, which moves from $ 7 to $ 17. This target suggests shares could jump 87% in the year ahead. (To watch Bernardino’s track record, click here)VXRT has kept a relatively low profile, as only one other analyst has thrown an opinion into the mix. The additional bullish call means that the stock gets a Moderate Buy consensus rating. At $ 19.50, the average price target is more aggressive than Bernardino’s and implies 114.5% upside potential. (See Vaxart stock analysis on TipRanks)To find good ideas for healthcare stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analyst. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.