WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Tuesday announced a $1.4 billion investment in developing the so-called next generation of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell made the announcement, saying the funding is part of the $5 billion program they hope will help the country get ahead of any future changes in COVID-19.
“This is an investment in expanding our country’s ability to respond to the future variants that we might see coming out of COVID,” Becerra said. “It’s an investment in better protecting all of our community, including those who are immunocompromised, and who don’t respond well to the existing vaccines.”
The $1.4 billion in funding should allow clinical trials for a new monoclonal antibody to start this autumn with clinical trials for a new COVID-19 vaccine starting as soon as the winter, O’Connell said.
“Project NextGen is operationalizing the lessons we’ve learned about the COVID-19 virus to broaden the nation’s medicine cabinet and increase protection for all communities,” O’Connell said.
The Biden administration, she said, expects to announce additional funding for Project NextGen programs before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
The projects funded on Tuesday include
- $1 billion for four Phase IIb clinical trial studies on a COVID-19 vaccine. That funding will go to ICON Government and Public Health Solutions, Inc of Hinckley, Ohio; Pharm-Olam, LLC, of Houston, Texas; Technical Resources International (TRI), Inc., of Bethesda, Maryland; and Rho Federal Systems, Inc., Durham, North Carolina.
- $326 million to Regeneron for a monoclonal antibody to prevent COVID-19.
- $100 million to Global Health Investment Corp., a non-profit organization that is managing an investment portfolio known as BARDA Ventures, referring to the federal agency called Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. The portfolio should “expand investments in new technologies that will accelerate responses in the future,” according to a statement from HHS.
- $10 million to Johnson & Johnson Innovation for a competition through Blue Knight, which HHS said in its statement is a partnership between BARDA and JLABS.
An HHS official said the department is in the process of identifying the COVID-19 vaccines that will move into the Phase IIb clinical trials.
Once the vaccines are identified, the HHS official said, the department would be able to “accelerate” their movement into clinical trials since a lot of the preparation to start a clinical trial can be going on before the vaccines are identified.
The HHS official said the timeline for moving the next generation of COVID-19 vaccines to doctors’ offices and pharmacies will be determined by the data and how effective they may be when compared with the current vaccines.