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Moderna inks deal with US government to fund vaccine trial

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, an arm of the US Department of Health and Human Services, will provide $176 million in the late-stage clinical trial, according to the announcement. That will come after the current stage of testing, which involves several vaccine candidates against H5 and H7 strains of the virus, wraps up later this year.
The announcement comes after months of speculation surrounding the Cambridge-based biotechnology company’s efforts to develop a vaccine tailored to the bird flu variant that has raised fears of a potential spillover outbreak in people .
Moderna announced on Tuesday a deal with the US government to fund a late-stage trial of its pandemic bird flu vaccine.
The agreement will ensure “fair pricing” for American consumers, one federal official told Bloomberg on Tuesday.
Moderna is Massachusetts’ largest homegrown drug maker, with more than 4,400 employees in the state as of late 2023.
The vaccine relies on messenger RNA, or mRNA, to stimulate immunity, in a fashion similar to the COVID-19 vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. Moderna recently obtained US regulatory approval of its vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, in older adults — the company’s first mRNA vaccine cleared for a disease other than COVID.
Moderna President Stephen Hoge told Bloomberg in March that the company sees bird flu as a “clear threat.”
The current strain of bird flu, or H5N1, surged in the United States earlier this year. Though the virus’s effect on wild bird populations is well documented — and was seen in New England as early as 2022 — researchers are concerned about transmission to mammals and, potentially, to humans.
Last year, the highly-pathogenic virus was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of seals and sea lions off the coast of South America. In March, it was reported that American livestock were contracting the disease, worsening fears of interspecies transmission.
So far, though, only three people are known to have been infected with the virus in the United States, all of them dairy workers who likely caught it from diseased cows. There have been no reports of human-to-human transmission, and the risk to the general population is considered low, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Scientists have also voiced concern over another strain of the virus, H5N2, which led to the death of a 59-year-old man in Mexico in early June. That was the first recorded H5N2 case in humans, according to the World Health Organization. Although the source of transmission is currently unknown, the new strain is not yet considered a serious threat to humans by WHO.
The vaccine deal is welcome news for Moderna, which has seen a steep decline in sales of its COVID-19 vaccine, Spikevax. That vaccine made Moderna a household name, but investors have grown anxious over the prospects of the company, particularly after a dismal first quarter earnings report.
Since then, the company has secured regulatory approval for its vaccine for RSV, a common and potentially deadly seasonal virus. In addition, Moderna recently announced that its combination flu and COVID shot met the goals of a pivotal late-stage trial, bringing the company one step closer to a more convenient jab that could help combat vaccine fatigue.
The federal government is also pursuing the development of other influenza vaccine candidates, including two traditional vaccines that are tailored to H5N1. Bloomberg reported that the US is likely eyeing another contract, potentially with Pfizer, to develop an mRNA-based flu vaccine.
Material from Globe wires and previous Globe coverage was used in this report.
Camilo Fonseca can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @fonseca_esq and Instagram @camilo_fonseca.reports.



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