American biotech Moderna said the US government will fund the development and manufacture of a potential vaccine for Covid-19 in a deal worth up $483m.
The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, will fund development of the vaccine mRNA-1273 up through approval by US regulators and will also help with efforts to scale manufacturing of the drug.
Massachusetts-based Moderna developed the potential vaccine — from the genetic sequence of the virus to delivery of a vial that could be tested — in a record-breaking 42 days.
The firm’s vaccine is one of the first to begin human trials — a group of 45 healthy adult volunteers. Moderna said if the trial is successful, it could reach final-stage testing by fall 2020. There are currently 70 Covid-19 vaccines in some stage of development, according to the World Health Organization.
Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA) is up just over 14% at $46.34 in Friday afternoon stock trading session. The stock has jumped 140% this year.
The company expects to move forward to Phase 2 trials, a stage that involves testing the vaccine on larger groups, by the second quarter of this year, while Phase 3 trials could begin during the fall of 2020.
Moderna Chief executive Stéphane Bancel (pictured) said: “By investing now in our manufacturing process scale-up to enable large scale production for pandemic response, we believe that we would be able to supply millions of doses per month in 2020 and with further investments, tens of millions per month in 2021, if the vaccine candidate is successful in the clinic.”
BARDA director Rick Bright added: “Delivering a safe and effective vaccine for a rapidly spreading virus requires accelerated action. BARDA’s goal is to have a vaccine available as quickly as possible”.
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