‘Operation Warp Speed’: Maryland Biotech Company Given $1.6 Billion To Develop Coronavirus Vaccine

World Health Organization (WHO) cautions that the coronavirus could be deadly Disease X that scientists have been warning about.

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Disclaimer: you arguably couldn’t find someone on this website less equipped to discuss coronavirus than your boy, the guy who writes about comic book movies all day, so I’m going to remove my voice from this one completely and just give you straight #facts. Journalism 101 baby, shout out Rutgers University. Deuces, my faceless internet friends, I’ll catch you in the next article.

Novavax, a Maryland-based biotech company, has been given $1.6 billion from the United States Federal Government as part of “Operation Warp Speed,” the federal government’s Covid-19 vaccine program. The $1.6 billion deal marks the largest government Covid-19 vaccine contract to date.

Speaking to CNN on Monday, Novavax CEO and President Stanley Erck said that the company’s contract with the U.S. government “speaks to the confidence that they have in our platform to be able to develop a vaccine.”

In terms of when the American public will have access to the vaccine, Erck said the vaccine could be on the market by the first quarter of 2021.

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

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.

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.

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. [via CNN]

In their own statement, the Department of Health and Human Services said that Operation Warp Speed has the goal of  “delivering 300 million doses of safe and effective vaccine to the American people in 2021.”

Erck is confident in Novavax’s ability to be the company to do that, as he’s “optimistic” that the company’s approach will work.

“Everybody understands the importance of what we’re working on. It’s precedent-setting,” he said.

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Eric is a New York City-based writer who still isn’t quite sure how he’s allowed to have this much fun for a living and will tell anyone who listens that Gotham City is canonically in New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter @eric_ital for movie and soccer takes or contact him eric@brobible.com

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