Moderna gets U.S. funding for bird flu vaccine development

July 4, 2024

The U.S. government has awarded $176 million to vaccine maker Moderna for development of an mRNAbased bird flu shot, reports Biopharma Dive.

The funding was awarded through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, and will support late-stage testing of a vaccine targeting H5 influenza virus. This type of virus is also known as avian, or bird flu, and includes the H5N1 strain that’s currently spreading among livestock in the United States.

The agreement—made through BARDA’s Rapid Response Partnership Vehicle— also includes options for large-scale production and pandemic response.

There have been four cases of H5N1 bird flu in humans in the United States since 2022, including three from exposure to dairy cattle presumed to be infected. H5N1 is highly infectious among birds, and outbreaks have occurred in commercial poultry as well as in livestock herds across the country.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there’s no evidence of person-to-person spread and the overall public health risk remains low.

Still, there are growing concerns about the outbreaks in animals and governments in the U.S.A. and Europe are taking steps to prepare. The U.S. government has previously been in talks with vaccine manufacturers, and is discussing vaccination strategies with European authorities.

Compared to other vaccine technologies, an mRNA shot could offer advantages in how quickly it can be manufactured and adapted.

“… mRNA vaccine technology offers advantages in efficacy, speed of development, and production scalability and reliability in addressing infectious disease outbreaks, as demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel.

Moderna started testing pandemic influenza vaccines in adults 18 years and older last year—including candidates covering the H5 and H7 virus families. Results are expected this year and will inform further development in Phase 3.

Research contact: @biopharmadive