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Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

A new initiative — funded by DARPA, the Pentagon's high-tech research arm — is aiming to make it much easier to scale up the next generation of RNA- and DNA-based vaccines.

Driving the news: A consortium including GE Research, the Broad Institute and the University of Washington is announcing today that it's secured a $41 million grant from DARPA. 

  • The researchers will use that money to develop a new platform that, they say, would enable an automated and mobile manufacturing process. 
  • Ultimately, the hope is that this platform could be distributed nationwide to quickly scale up manufacturing and cut down on distribution time.

Why it matters: We're dealing now with the first-ever mRNA vaccines — technology that has the potential to produce more effective inoculations for a range of viruses. And even as those vaccines are still rolling out, scientists are already at work on ways to make the next versions of these products even more efficient. 

  • "Having the ability to produce small batches of ready-to-use vaccines in under three days at the site of need would enable widespread deployment of doses at an unprecedented speed," John Nelson, the leader of the GE Research team, said in a statement.

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
Mar 2, 2021 - World

Latin America turns to China and Russia for COVID-19 vaccines

Several countries in the Americas have received their first vaccine shipments over the past few weeks — not from the regional superpower or from Western pharmaceutical giants, but from China, Russia, and in some cases India.

Why it matters: North and South America have been battered by the pandemic and recorded several of the world’s highest death tolls. Few countries other than the U.S. have the capacity to manufacture vaccines at scale, and most lack the resources to buy their way to the front of the line for imports. That’s led to a scramble for whatever supply is available.

CDC director warns "now is not the time" to lift COVID restrictions

CDC director Rochelle Walensky warned states on Monday that "now is not the time" to lift public health restrictions, as the recent dramatic declines in coronavirus cases and deaths "appear to be stalling."

Why it matters: While the average of 70,000 new infections and 2,000 daily deaths is nowhere near the extremely high levels recorded at the start of 2021, the figures are still a poor baseline to "stop a potential fourth surge" — especially with the threat posed by more contagious new variants, Walensky warned.