US pours billions into securing access to coronavirus vaccine candidates

US President Donald Trump speaks at the National Association of Counties’ 2020 Legislative Conference in Washington, US, March 3, 2020.
Image Credit: Reuters

As drugmakers race to develop vaccines and therapies for the novel coronavirus, the United States is rushing to secure access to them.

The US government has agreed to invest more than $7 billion in vaccines and has funded more than 30 projects, including for diagnostics and treatments.

It is giving $2.1 billion to Sanofi SA and GlaxoSmithKline Plc for COVID-19 vaccines to cover 50 million people.

The award is the biggest from “Operation Warp Speed,” the White House initiative aimed at accelerating access to vaccines and treatments to fight COVID-19.

The following is a list publicly-disclosed funding of over $1 million from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a U.S. federal agency that funds disease-fighting technology.

GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Sanofi SA

$2.1 billion

It is working combination of a vaccine based on Sanofi’s flu shots and a complementary technology from GSK the vaccine. Aims to start clinical trials in September.

Plans to enroll 1.000s of subjects globally for early-stage trials. The vaccine uses an adjuvant, designed to improve the vaccine’s potency.

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE

$1.95 billion

Uses the so-called messenger RNA approach that sets off an immune response to target the virus.

Large study has begun, companies expect some form of regulatory approval as early as October and aim to make up to 100 million doses by end of 2020 and potentially more than 1.2 billion doses by end of 2021.

Novavax Inc

$1.6 billion

Works with an adjuvant – a substance that boosts immune response to help body build a robust  defense against the virus. Grant covers testing, commercialization and manufacturing of vaccine in US, with aim of delivering 100 mln doses by January 2021.

Mid-stage trials to begin in August or September, late-stage in October.

AstraZeneca Plc

$1.2 billion

AZD1222 was developed by the University of Oxford and licensed to AstraZeneca.

Large, late-stage trials underway.


$955 million

mRNA-1273 – uses synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA) to inoculate against the coronavirus; Vaccine produced positive results in 45-subject safety trial; late-stage trial started in July.

inoculate against the coronavirus late-stage trial to start in July

Johnson & Johnson

$456.2 million

Viral Vector Vaccine for COVID-19 – uses pharma unit Janssen Research’s established Adenovirus 26 platform.

Kicked off human study, late-stage study planned for September.

Merck & Co Inc

$38 million

Recombinant COVID-19 vaccine. It is based on same technology used in company’s Ebola vaccine ERVEBO.

Human trials for vaccine, being developed jointly with research nonprofit IAVI, expected sometime this year.


The Fench pharmaceutical company is also working with U.S.-based Translate Bio Inc on another vaccine candidate based on messenger RNA technology (mRNA). This vaccine has not received funding from BARDA.

Sources: BARDA website (, U.S. FDA as well as company press releases

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