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Jul 7, 2020

Novavax COVID vaccine gets US$1.6B in U.S. funding

Vaccine

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Novavax Inc., one of the front-runners in the race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, will receive US$1.6 billion from the U.S. Operation Warp Speed program to develop its experimental shot.

The funds will allow the company to conduct advanced human studies and establish manufacturing to deliver 100 million doses as soon as late 2020, Gaithersburg, Maryland-based Novavax said in a statement.

The shares rose 33 per cent in premarket trading.

Novavax is among a host of companies striving to develop an inoculation against the novel coronavirus that’s spreading quickly in countries including the U.S., India and Mexico.

President Donald Trump’s Warp Speed effort has funded efforts at a number of companies, including Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Pfizer Inc., Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc, to get doses as early as possible.

Operation Warp Speed seeks to compress a process that is typically years long into a matter of months. The drive is being led by General Gustave Perna, who directs the U.S. Army Materiel Command, and former GlaxoSmithKline Plc executive Moncef Slaoui.

The funds will help Novavax begin a final-stage study of its vaccine candidate as early as this fall, with as many as 30,000 subjects, according to the statement.

The biotech company secured as much as US$388 million in May from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the single largest contribution from the organization at the time.

The company’s vaccine candidate is meant to create antibodies that block a protein “spike” that the new coronavirus uses to infect its host.

Drug companies and university researchers are investigating more than 130 experimental inoculations, according to the World Health Organization. Moderna, Pfizer and the University of Oxford, working with AstraZeneca, are among the companies and institutions that have started studies of their vaccines in healthy patients.