Regeneron and Johnson & Johnson will receive millions of dollars in US government funding as part of a $5 billion initiative to develop next-generation vaccines and treatments for Covid-19.
(Bloomberg) — Regeneron and Johnson & Johnson will receive millions of dollars in US government funding as part of a $5 billion initiative to develop next-generation vaccines and treatments for Covid-19.
Some $1.4 billion in funding will target projects including trials to enable the rapid development of more effective and longer-lasting coronavirus vaccines, new Covid antibody therapies and technologies to streamline manufacturing processes, the Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday. The awards are the first in the Biden administration’s Project NextGen initiative that was announced in April.
Covid hospitalizations are again on the rise after hitting their lowest levels since the pandemic began, in part due to waning vaccine effectiveness, experts say. Covid’s mutations have continued to outrun vaccines and treatments, requiring drugmakers to reformulate shots to target the latest circulating variants and evading key monoclonal antibody drugs from Regeneron and Eli Lilly & Co.
“As the virus continues to evolve, we need new tools that keep pace with those changes,” HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell said in a statement.
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In June, US regulators asked drugmakers to create shots targeting the XBB.1.5 strain taht was then spreading widely in time for the fall season, but newer strains with more mutations have already emerged. Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. have each said their updated vaccines raised antibodies against the now-dominant EG.5 strain in early trials, but how long protection will last remains to be seen. Both companies have been working on next-generation vaccines that would last longer than current versions and wouldn’t need to be updated as often.
Four Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority clinical trial partners will receive $1 billion in funding to support mid-stage studies. Clinical trials of new vaccine candidates are expected as early as this winter, officials said in a press briefing.
Regeneron will receive $326 million for the development of a next-generation monoclonal antibody for Covid prevention, and $100 million will go to Global Health Investment Corp., a nonprofit organization managing the BARDA Ventures investment portfolio to expand investments in new technologies. Another $10 million will go to Johnson & Johnson Innovation for a competition, according to a statement.
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