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The federal government will pay vaccine maker Novavax $1.6 billion to expedite the development of 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine by the beginning of next year, the company said Tuesday.
The deal is the largest that the Trump administration has made so far with a company as part of Operation Warp Speed, the sprawling federal effort to make coronavirus vaccines and treatments available to the American public as quickly as possible. In doing so, the government has placed a significant bet on Novavax, a company based in Maryland that has never brought a product to market.
Operation Warp Speed is a multiagency effort that seeks to carry out President Donald Trump’s pledge to make a coronavirus vaccine available by the end of the year, but the full extent of the project is still unclear. Officials have declined to list which vaccines and treatments are part of Operation Warp Speed.
A Novavax spokeswoman said the money was coming from a “collaboration” between the Department of Health and Human Services and the Defense Department.
In May, the administration announced it was awarding up to $1.2 billion as part of Operation Warp Speed to British drugmaker AstraZeneca, which has said that its vaccine could be available by October. Four other companies — Moderna Therapeutics, Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Sanofi — have also received federal assistance for their experimental coronavirus vaccines.
“Adding Novavax’s candidate to Operation Warp Speed’s diverse portfolio of vaccines increases the odds that we will have a safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year,” Alex Azar, the health and human services secretary, said in a statement.
The U.S. investment comes after an international group, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, awarded up to $388 million to Novavax in May to make its coronavirus vaccine available globally.
Several vaccine experts said Novavax’s vaccine would help diversify the federal portfolio by including another candidate that uses a protein-based vaccine. The Novavax vaccine uses microscopic particles that carry fragments of the coronavirus, prompting the body’s immune system to respond. Sanofi, which has received nearly $31 million in government funding, is also developing a vaccine that is based on viral proteins.