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Operation Warp Speed commits $1.6 billion to Covid-19 vaccine maker Novavax

The US government announced a $1.6 billion contract with a Maryland biotech firm, Novavax, as part of its coronavirus vaccine program. It is the government's largest vaccine contract to date.

Posted: Jul 7, 2020 6:11 PM
Updated: Jul 7, 2020 6:11 PM

"Operation Warp Speed," the federal government's Covid-19 vaccine program, on Tuesday announced the largest government Covid-19 vaccine contract to date -- a $1.6 billion contract with Novavax, a Maryland biotech company.

"It speaks to the confidence that they have in our platform to be able to develop a vaccine," Stanley Erck, Novavax's president and CEO, said Monday in an interview with CNN.

Erck said Novavax's vaccine could be on the market by the first quarter of next year.

Novavax is the fourth company to receive federal funds to conduct large-scale Phase 3 clinical trials and manufacture its Covid-19 vaccine. Each trial is expected to include 30,000 people.

In May, the government awarded more than $1.2 billion to pharmaceutical giant AstraZenca for vaccine development. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have also received Phase 3 contracts.

Phase 1 clinical trial data from Novavax on 131 study subjects is expected by the end of the month, Erck said.

Erck said he expects Novavax to begin those Phase 3 trials in the fourth quarter of this year, or possibly late in the third quarter.

Moderna is expected to start its Phase 3 trial later this month. Some study subjects will get the vaccine and some will get a placebo, or an injection that does nothing.

Novavax's $1.6 billion will allow the company to test the vaccine and scale up production in advance of its possible approval, with the aim of delivering 100 million doses by February, Erck said.

Novavax's vaccine contains a small part of the coronavirus, called the spike protein, which sits atop the virus. The goal is to trick the immune system into thinking the spike is actually the entire virus. The immune system creates a response, which will then be used to attack the real virus.

"I think we have a high level of confidence that that our vaccine will set off the appropriate immune response to generate lots of antibodies," Erck said.

Novavax has used this same technology to make vaccine candidates for Ebola, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus. While the company has studied these vaccines in humans, none have been put on the market.

Novavax isn't alone. The other three companies with Phase 3 money -- Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson -- also use technology that has never resulted in a marketed vaccine.

Erck said he's "optimistic" that Novavax's approach will work and that his team is working "twenty-four seven" on the vaccine.

"Everybody understands the importance of what we're working on. It's precedent setting," he said.

In June, Novavax announced a $60 million contract with the US Department of Defense to deliver 10 million doses to the department.

In addition, Novavax is receiving more than $388 million in funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI. The US government is not a part of CEPI.

"Operation Warp Speed" has the goal "to begin delivering 300 million ... doses of safe and effective vaccine to the American people in 2021," according to a Department of Health and Human Services statement issued Tuesday morning.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 289303

Reported Deaths: 3434
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin616511100
Ramsey25903487
Anoka20522218
Dakota20096183
Washington13066109
Stearns1291098
St. Louis7935101
Scott782754
Wright702436
Olmsted626134
Sherburne538640
Clay463856
Carver432213
Blue Earth387112
Rice386033
Kandiyohi373819
Crow Wing334631
Nobles298729
Chisago29358
Otter Tail282818
Benton278642
Winona258128
Mower241323
Douglas237631
Polk234423
Morrison219524
Lyon201911
McLeod195610
Beltrami194615
Becker187512
Goodhue185727
Steele17826
Itasca176124
Isanti174316
Todd171612
Carlton165710
Nicollet150823
Freeborn14465
Mille Lacs141630
Le Sueur138110
Waseca134011
Cass12849
Brown125011
Pine12458
Meeker11308
Roseau10503
Hubbard103822
Martin101920
Wabasha9611
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Chippewa8057
Watonwan7984
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Renville75119
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Rock6829
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Houston6422
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Pennington5856
Kanabec54912
Murray5493
Swift5366
Faribault5081
Pope4990
Stevens4643
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Marshall4438
Jackson4361
Unassigned38759
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Koochiching3535
Wilkin3465
Lac qui Parle3383
Norman3227
Lincoln3171
Big Stone2841
Mahnomen2704
Grant2516
Red Lake2033
Kittson1917
Traverse1360
Lake of the Woods931
Cook600

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 222064

Reported Deaths: 2319
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33019331
Linn13877164
Scott1085683
Black Hawk10730134
Woodbury10159121
Johnson935536
Dubuque907691
Story669721
Dallas624657
Pottawattamie612469
Sioux364625
Webster353033
Marshall343545
Cerro Gordo342644
Clinton319839
Buena Vista300014
Des Moines281719
Muscatine280968
Warren274011
Plymouth268941
Wapello251171
Jones227913
Jasper212443
Marion201719
Lee197916
Carroll195422
Bremer191312
Henry18037
Crawford173015
Benton166217
Tama152240
Jackson142113
Delaware140221
Washington137414
Dickinson134210
Boone134011
Mahaska125327
Wright12156
Buchanan115010
Clay11314
Hardin113010
Page11134
Hamilton10809
Clayton10715
Harrison106129
Cedar104913
Calhoun10487
Kossuth10236
Floyd102216
Mills10177
Fayette10159
Lyon10058
Poweshiek97913
Butler9746
Winneshiek95412
Iowa92312
Winnebago90223
Hancock8497
Louisa83916
Grundy83811
Chickasaw8354
Sac8297
Cherokee8134
Cass79721
Appanoose77310
Mitchell7704
Allamakee76811
Union7546
Humboldt7525
Shelby75010
Emmet74724
Guthrie73715
Franklin72921
Jefferson6852
Madison6734
Palo Alto6454
Unassigned6320
Keokuk5737
Pocahontas5532
Howard5419
Greene5160
Osceola5131
Clarke4774
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Taylor4563
Davis4508
Montgomery44911
Monroe43712
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Monona4212
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Decatur3150
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