Moderna Inc. announced that it has obtained $472 million more from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority of the U.S. government on Sunday to facilitate the research and development of its novel coronavirus vaccine.
Moderna was given $483 million by the U.S. federal agency in April for its virus-fighting capability when the experimental vaccine was tested in an early-phase trial by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
The company said the increased funding would help their final-phase clinical research including Moderna's expanded third-stage research for a candidate drug. Shares of Moderna, which closed at $73.21 on Friday, have advanced over 270 percent this year as the group has become one of the front-runners in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The funding will help the biotech giant extend the clinical test to 30,000 participants in the United States and comes on the heels of months of talks with the Food and Drug Administration and Operation Warp Speed of the Trump administration.
The U.S. government has jacked up its support in the development, trials, and fast-tracking of the COVID-19 vaccine program. Earlier this month, it released $450 million to produce a promising treatment and $1.6 billion to Novavax to conduct a final-phase test for its drug candidate.
In a preliminary and small test, Moderna's experimental drug generated coronavirus antibodies in 45 subjects. In the extended clinical test starting on Monday, half of the 30,000 subjects will be administered with a 100-microgram shot of the drug, while the rest will get a placebo.
In a statement, Moderna chief executive officer Stéphane Bancel said that, inspired by the Phase 1 results, they are optimistic that their mRNA vaccine "may aid in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and preventing future outbreaks," Mike Murphy of MarketWatch quoted Bancel as saying in his report.
BARDA's total funding for Moderna's experimental drug is now roughly $955 million. The Massachusetts-based biotech group is the first in the U.S. to initiate human tests of a coronavirus drug.
Moderna's vaccine uses a synthetic messenger called RNA (mRNA) to immunize the body against the disease. This type of treatment helps the body defend against a virus and can be developed and produced more quickly compared to conventional vaccines.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has suffered over 146,000 coronavirus fatalities, leading the world in this forbidding category, even as the number of new infections has continued to balloon.