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.

Confirmed Cases: 62993

Reported Deaths: 1731
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin19873842
Ramsey7827270
Dakota4610106
Anoka3841115
Stearns292820
Washington222748
Olmsted179123
Nobles17777
Scott163422
Mower11112
Rice10468
Blue Earth9465
Wright9185
Carver8993
Clay79440
Sherburne75310
Kandiyohi7141
St. Louis62120
Todd4302
Lyon4263
Watonwan3671
Freeborn3611
Nicollet35613
Steele3562
Benton3253
Winona26616
Beltrami2640
Crow Wing25214
Le Sueur2301
McLeod2240
Martin2105
Chisago2091
Goodhue2059
Otter Tail2044
Cottonwood1780
Becker1621
Pipestone1589
Polk1564
Waseca1561
Carlton1470
Itasca14612
Douglas1442
Isanti1370
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Pine1290
Murray1251
Chippewa1171
Morrison941
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Cass802
Jackson790
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Mille Lacs733
Fillmore720
Renville675
Lincoln610
Grant563
Swift561
Roseau530
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Pope480
Houston450
Aitkin411
Norman400
Kanabec372
Redwood370
Hubbard360
Wilkin353
Marshall290
Wadena280
Mahnomen271
Big Stone250
Red Lake240
Lake220
Stevens180
Clearwater140
Traverse130
Lac qui Parle80
Cook50
Lake of the Woods40
Kittson30

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 50230

Reported Deaths: 955
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk10612210
Woodbury377052
Black Hawk320066
Linn245689
Johnson213820
Dallas193235
Buena Vista180012
Scott176815
Dubuque173431
Marshall145627
Pottawattamie136729
Story118915
Wapello93435
Muscatine86048
Webster8498
Crawford7393
Cerro Gordo65617
Sioux6533
Warren5861
Tama55729
Jasper48427
Wright4821
Plymouth47912
Clinton4344
Dickinson3844
Louisa37814
Washington30510
Boone2723
Franklin25512
Hamilton2551
Bremer2337
Clarke2063
Clay2021
Carroll2012
Des Moines1992
Emmet1934
Shelby1881
Hardin1860
Marion1830
Floyd1673
Benton1621
Jackson1601
Poweshiek1608
Allamakee1584
Mahaska14217
Henry1404
Guthrie1385
Buchanan1351
Cedar1351
Jones1352
Butler1312
Lee1294
Madison1282
Hancock1242
Humboldt1241
Delaware1231
Lyon1232
Pocahontas1212
Harrison1131
Cherokee1101
Clayton1093
Winneshiek1021
Page1000
Taylor1000
Iowa981
Kossuth970
Mills941
Monona920
Winnebago920
Palo Alto910
Fayette900
Calhoun872
Cass871
Jefferson870
Sac860
Osceola850
Grundy831
Union811
Mitchell800
Monroe758
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Worth680
Davis612
Montgomery614
Chickasaw600
Appanoose523
Howard510
Fremont450
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Adair380
Van Buren381
Ida330
Audubon291
Decatur270
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Wayne211
Adams170
Unassigned20
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