US invests $1.6 billion extra in vaccine research

US invests $1.6 billion extra in vaccine research
Credit: Belga

The United States government has granted $1.6 billion (approximately €1.4 billion) to Novavax, an American biotech company, for its coronavirus vaccine project, the government announced on Tuesday.

The US will be guaranteed priority for the first 100 million doses if the vaccine is proven efficient.

President Donald Trump’s administration launched Operation Warp Speed to try to produce 300 million doses of a vaccine by January 2021, to vaccinate Americans as a priority. It “creates a vaccine portfolio to increase the chances that we will have at least one safe and effective vaccine by the end of the year,” said Alex Azar, Secretary of Health.

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The US government has invested billions of dollars in projects by several biotech companies and laboratories to finance clinical trials and, in parallel, the construction of manufacturing sites for future vaccines on a large scale – not counting the purchase of 92% of the production of the anti-viral drug Remdesivir, the only drug that has proven to be relatively effective on coronavirus patients.

The investment in Novavax is expected to guarantee the manufacture of 100 million doses by the end of this year, to be used in clinical trials and possibly for a vaccination campaign if licensed.

Novavax began clinical trials on 130 people in Australia in May, with funding from CEPI, a public-private coalition dedicated to vaccine financing; results are not yet available. It is expected to launch the so-called Phase 3 trial (the last and largest) in the fall, with up to 30,000 participants, according to a news release. Its vaccine project is called NVX-CoV2373.

The US had previously invested about $2 billion in vaccine projects of Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and AstraZeneca (in partnership with Oxford), the latter two being the most advanced.

The Warp Speed deal initially selected 14 projects, which were later reduced to seven, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

The government also announced $450 million to Regeneron for its experimental treatment (REGN-COV2) against the new coronavirus, which has not been proven effective but is being tested both on coronavirus patients and on uninfected people who have been recently exposed to the virus.

To date, only Remdesivir and the steroid dexamethasone have shown efficacy in coronavirus patients.

The Brussels Times

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