Moderna Seeks Significant Taxpayer Funding for Development of mRNA Bird Flu Vaccine

The U.S. government is reportedly close to reaching an agreement to fund a late-stage trial of Moderna’s mRNA bird flu vaccine. This comes as outbreaks of bird flu on poultry and cattle farms across the country have raised concerns among public health officials.

The funding, which could amount to tens of millions of dollars, would be funneled through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). If successful, the government may commit to purchasing vaccine doses for the H5N1 bird flu. Additionally, the government is in talks with Pfizer about supporting its development of an mRNA vaccine for the H5 family of bird flu viruses.

The potential funding and stockpile opportunities could be a financial boost for Moderna and Pfizer, whose market valuations have decreased as demand for COVID-19 vaccines has declined. Moderna’s share price has seen a significant increase since April.

Moderna has completed dosing for the mid-stage trial of its vaccine, while Pfizer has initiated a phase-one trial for its pandemic flu vaccine. Both companies have expressed their commitment to using mRNA technology to address public health concerns.

The existing FDA-approved H5N1 vaccines in the Strategic National Stockpile rely on a more time-intensive production process compared to mRNA vaccines. Major flu vaccine manufacturer CSL Seqirus has been selected by BARDA to deliver nearly 5 million doses of its pre-pandemic bird flu vaccine.

While bird flu is rare among humans, there have been recent cases of farmworkers contracting the disease after exposure to infected cattle. Public health officials have expressed concerns about a potential bird flu pandemic, with some warning that it could be more severe than COVID-19. However, the CDC currently classifies the public health risk from the H5 bird flu as low.

Critics have dismissed the alarmism surrounding bird flu as overblown and profit-driven. It is worth noting that gain-of-function research, funded by various government agencies, has been conducted to make bird flu more pathogenic and transmissible in mammals.

In summary, the U.S. government is considering funding late-stage trials for Moderna’s mRNA bird flu vaccine and exploring support for Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine targeting bird flu viruses. The potential funding and stockpile opportunities could prove beneficial for both companies. While concerns about a potential bird flu pandemic persist, the current public health risk is classified as low by the CDC.

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By Kate Stephenson
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