Novavax awarded $1.6 billion for coronavirus vaccine development

Novavax awarded $1.6 billion for coronavirus vaccine development
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The federal government has awarded $1.6 billion to Novavax to test and manufacture possible vaccines for the coronavirus, the biggest award to date under the Trump administration's “Operation Warp Speed” program.

The drugmaker aims to deliver 100 million doses of any potential vaccine by January, Reuters reported. The award will also cover a large-scale phase three trial that could begin by October.

Smaller awards under the program thus far include $456 million to Johnson & Johnson, $486 million to Moderna and $1.2 billion for AstraZeneca, which is collaborating with Oxford University on its potential vaccine.

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Novavax, however, was not listed on a Warp Speed shortlist, first reported by The New York Times, that included Pfizer, J&J, Merck, Moderna and AstraZeneca, Reuters noted. The Maryland-based company was awarded $388 million in funding for vaccine research by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations in May, as well as $60 million in June from the Department of Defense.

“What this Warp Speed award does is it pays for production of 100 million doses, which would be delivered starting in the fourth quarter of this year, and may be completed by January or February of next year,” Novavax CEO Stanley Erck told Reuters.

Erck said Novavax is currently transferring its vaccine development technology to an unidentified contract manufacturer and that Emergent Biosolutions is also in the process of developing doses for early and midstage trials.

He added that the potential vaccine works alongside an adjuvant currently manufactured in Sweden that boosts the body’s immune response. Erck also said Novavax is currently increasing U.S. manufacturing capacity for the substance “so that we can make upwards of a billion doses of adjuvant in the United States.”

The company first started human safety trials in late May, with Erck noting that part the process includes growing the vaccine in insect cells, which can take up to a month.

“You lose a month or so there, but I don’t think we’re behind because our data,” he said.