Aug 22, 2023 - Health

Biden admin pumps money into developing new COVID vaccines

Illustration of a hand reaching for a syringe.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The Biden administration on Tuesday announced the first funding awards from its $5 billion project aimed at developing the next generation of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

Why it matters: The project is intended to support vaccines that are longer lasting and more protective against a mutating virus, as well as better options like more effective monoclonal antibodies, after some were sidelined by the emergence of new variants.

  • Project NextGen is the long-term follow-up to Operation Warp Speed, which delivered COVID-19 vaccines and treatments in record time.

Driving the news: The $1.4 billion in awards announced Tuesday includes $1 billion for clinical trials for more advanced vaccines. The idea is to do preparatory work so the trials can move faster once the specific vaccine candidates are chosen.

  • $326 million is going to Regeneron for work on a monoclonal antibody that can help prevent COVID-19 in people who do not respond well to the vaccines.
  • Some of the remaining funds will go towards better vaccine manufacturing technology, such as a nasal spray that in theory could guard better again infection.

What they're saying: Dawn O'Connell, an assistant secretary of health and human services, said more awards are expected before the end of the fiscal year.

  • The moves are "strengthening us for whatever the COVID-19 virus brings next," she said.

What's next: Officials said clinical trials for the improved vaccines will begin "as early as this winter," and the new monoclonal antibody will enter clinical trials this fall.

  • As for when the next-generation vaccines will be ready, an HHS official said that will be "entirely driven by the data."
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