Executives at Gaitherburg-based Novavax say the company has laid the groundwork for a vaccine to combat Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, should the number of people infected with the virus continue to rise as some public health officials fear.

In the April 13 issue of the medical journal Vaccine, researchers from the company and the University of Maryland School of Medicine published data showing they were able to block infection in laboratory tests.

The vaccine is still considered highly experimental and would need additional safety and efficacy tests before it could be used in humans. But researchers contend their findings are a promising development for health officials.

“We’ve been talking with a lot of different people who are interested in what’s going on here. No decision has been made about going forward,” said Greg Glenn, senior vice president of research and development at Novavax.

Matthew Frieman at the University of Maryland School of Medicine said additional development of the vaccine may depend on whether MERS cases continue to crop up.

“If it continues to rise as it has been, this type of vaccine, even though it’s experimental, may be fast-tracked all the way,” Frieman said.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports the first case of MERS emerged in 2012, and most cases have been contained to countries on the Arabian Peninsula. The first confirmed case in a traveler to the United States was reported last week.

Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the CDC. About 30 percent of those with the illness die from it.

Bits & bytes

Bethesda-based WealthEngine, a data analytics company that helps marketers to learn about the wealth and lifestyles of customers, raised $7 million from investors last week.

Novak Biddle Venture Partners was joined in the latest funding round by HKB Capital and Streamlined Ventures, among other investors.

Making your summer reading list? Aneesh Chopra, the nation’s first chief technology officer, last week released his book, “Innovative State: How New Technologies Can Transform Government.”

Chopra, who now works for under-the-radar upstart Hunch Analytics, argues in the 299-page book that modern technology offers the government ways to operate more efficiently and tackle persistent problems in new ways .