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2023-08-29| Funding

U.S. Government Awards $1.4 Billion to Advance COVID Therapies and Vaccines

by GeneOnline
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On August 22, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it has awarded $1.4 billion to accelerate and support the development of new therapies and vaccines against COVID-19. The awards are part of the Project NextGen initiative. This initiative aims to advance the development of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics through collaboration with the industry. 

Related Article: HHS Issues Initial Guidance on Negotiation Program as Government’s Latest Move to Reduce Drug Prices

Project NextGen’s Investment in COVID-19 Solutions 

Project NextGen is an initiative led by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The initiative consists of a $5 billion investment intended to accelerate and optimize the research and development of vaccines and therapies to stay ahead of COVID-19. Project NextGen’s areas of focus include the development of vaccines that provide better protection and are easier to administer. These areas also encompass pan-coronavirus protection, resilient monoclonal antibodies, and advancing new technologies. 

The awards for Project NextGen amount to over $1.4 billion. As part of the awards, $1 billion was allocated to support vaccine clinical trials with the expectation that it would help speed the development of new vaccine candidates. These studies involve four BARDA clinical trial partners: ICON Government and Public Health Solutions, Technical Resources Intl (TRI), Rho Federal Systems, and ICON Government and Public Health Solutions.Apart from vaccine development, the rest of the award consisted of $326 million awarded to Regeneron, $100 million to Global Health Investment Corp. (GHIC), and $10 million to Johnson & Johnson Innovation (JLABS). 

The initiative’s comprehensive approach to critical aspects of the COVID-19 response will hopefully help keep up with the virus’s rapid evolution. Furthermore, the strategy underscores the HHS’s commitment to safeguarding public health. Dawn O’Conell, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, said, “Project NextGen combines the research and development expertise at HHS with the lessons we have learned about the virus throughout the pandemic – strengthening our preparedness for whatever comes next.” 

Advancing COVID-19 Therapies

The second-largest portion of the funds was awarded to Regeneron to support the development of their next-generation COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapy. Regeneron had previously successfully developed an antibody cocktail to treat COVID that consisted of two monoclonal antibodies. The cocktail was used as a treatment and preventative measure against COVID-19 strains by the U.S. government between 2020 and 2022. However, its use since then has become limited as it is ineffective against the Omicron variant. This only serves to highlight the importance of the rapid development of new vaccines and antibodies that are capable of keeping up with the new emerging variants of the virus.  

The $1.4 billion in funding represents a significant step forward in the development of new vaccines and therapies that will hopefully bridge address the current gaps in COVID therapeutics. A new monoclonal antibody is expected to enter clinical trials this fall. In conclusion, the HHS has shown its commitment to strengthening the defenses against COVID-19. Accomplishing this through collaborations with the private sector to develop new vaccines and therapies to respond to current and emerging COVID strains.

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