A government support package of $1.6 billion has been granted to Novavax Inc by the US government to allow the drug maker the finances needed for testing, commercialization and manufacturing of a potential coronavirus vaccine in the United States. The government aims that the drug maker will be able to deliver 100 million doses by January 2021.
This grant is the largest so far given by the US government under its “Operation Warp Speed” program which was launched to speed up access to vaccines and treatments against the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“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 Chief Executive Stanley Erck said. The expenses for a large Phase III trial – the final stage of human testing which the company hopes could be started as early as October, will also be covered under the grant.
Previously, the US government had also taken up a stake in the Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine candidate in March worth $456 million. The White House had also granted $486 million to Moderna Inc in April and an aid of up to $1.2 billion in May for supporting the efforts of AstraZeneca’s vaccine that is being developed jointly with the Oxford University.
$628 million to expand domestic manufacturing capacity for a potential coronavirus vaccine and drugs against Covid-19 was also granted by the US government to Emergent Biosolutions.
According to analysts, an effective and safe vaccine is crucial for bring an end to the Covid-19 pandemic which has already killed more than half a million lives globally with the US accounting for about a quarter of them.
Analysts says that in the race for a coronavirus vaccine, the Gaithersburg, Maryland-based company is somewhat of a dark horse. The company was not included in a list of companies for vaccine finalists for Warp Speed as was reported by the New York Times. That list included Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer Inc, J&J, and Merck & Co.
The CEO of the company said that the process of transferring its vaccine technology to an unnamed contract manufacturer is currently undergoing and informed that the manufacturer has two large manufacturing facilities. That would be over and above the work that is being done by Emergent Biosolutions – as it is currently engaged in manufacturing the vaccine doses for the company for it smaller early and midstage clinical trials.
The vaccine being prepared by Novavax works together with an adjuvant which is a substance that boosts the immune response to aid the human body to create a robust defense against the virus. Currently, Novavax makes its adjuvant in Sweden. Erck said that the company is currently a manufacturing capacity for its adjuvant is being increased “so that we can make upwards of a billion doses of adjuvant in the United States”.
(Adapted from BusinessToday.in)