Moderna’s Bird Flu Vaccine Trial Secures Funding

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Moderna's Bird Flu Vaccine Trial
Moderna's Bird Flu Vaccine Trial. Credit | REUTERS

United States: A deal to fund a late-stage trial of Moderna’s mRNA pandemic bird flu vaccine is almost finalized by the US government, which aims to increase the country’s supply of pandemic vaccines in case an H5N1 breakout breaks out among cow herds and egg farms.

Moderna’s mRNA Bird Flu Vaccine

Sources close to the discussions have indicated that the government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or Barda, may provide federal financing as early as next month.

They stated that if the phase-three studies are successful, a commitment to obtain doses may come along with the anticipated several tens of millions of dollars.

There are also ongoing discussions between Pfizer and the government about the latter’s possible backing for the former’s mRNA vaccine, which targets the H5 family of viruses. Similar to Moderna, Pfizer was essential in providing mRNA vaccines for the Covid-19 vaccine deployment in Washington.

Bird Flu Outbreak Concerns Rise

As the part of one of the worst outbreaks in the recent memory bird flu has been found in dairy cow herds across nine states and on poultry farms and spanning 48 states, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus’s potential to spread to human populations has been raised by the CDC’s recent reports of three cases involving dairy workers. The organization announced on Thursday that it has discovered a new instance involving a dairy worker from Michigan, the first infected individual to experience acute respiratory symptoms typically associated with flu.

The US government’s attempts to increase and diversify the pandemic vaccine stockpile have accelerated, despite its continued classification of the public health risk from bird flu as low. Last week, federal health officials announced that they were in talks with Moderna and Pfizer and were proceeding with plans to fill 4.8 million vials from its current stock of protein-based bird flu vaccinations.

Momentum for mRNA Vaccine Producers

The producers of mRNA vaccines, whose market values have substantially decreased from pandemic highs, may be able to profit from the prospect of adding to the US pandemic vaccine stockpile. The share price of Moderna has increased by almost 37% since the beginning of April.

The dose of Moderna’s H5 pandemic flu vaccine has concluded in a mid-stage trial, and preliminary results are anticipated shortly. Pfizer confirmed that it had started a phase-one trial for a pandemic flu vaccine in December of last year when it said in a statement on Wednesday that it “would be prepared to deploy the company’s capabilities to develop a vaccine for strategic stockpiles.”

Urgency Amid Outbreak

Based on a project proposal seen by the Financial Times, applications for funding for an mRNA-based pandemic flu vaccine through the Barda award closed in December of last year. However, the bird flu outbreak has made negotiations more urgent, as federal officials have acknowledged that the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated the importance of mRNA vaccines in comparison to more conventional vaccine technology, given the speed at which they were developed and implemented.

Protection Offered

Based on laboratory testing, the vaccines from GSK, Sanofi, and CSL Seqirus, which comprise the US government’s current pandemic vaccine portfolio, offer protection against the current strain of bird flu. However, their production involves a more labor-intensive method including the use of egg- and cell-based cultures.

Regarding the possible funding, Pfizer, Moderna, and the US Department of Health all declined to comment.

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