US spending $6.6 billion to speed up development of new Covid-19 vaccines

WASHINGTON – The US government is spending over US$5 billion (S$6.66 billion) on an effort to speed up the development of new Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spokesperson and a Biden administration official said on Monday.

The investment, dubbed “Project NextGen” and first announced by White House and HHS officials in an interview with the Washington Post, aims to provide better protection from coronaviruses, including the one that causes Covid-19, that might become future threats.

“While our vaccines are still very effective at preventing serious illness and death, they are less capable of reducing infections and transmission over time,” the HHS spokesperson said.

“New variants and loss of immunity over time could continue to challenge our healthcare systems in the coming years.”

President Joe Biden’s administration will spend a minimum of US$5 billion in collaborations with the private sector, an approach similar to that of the “Operation Warp Speed” project under former President Donald Trump that accelerated the development and distribution of vaccines in 2020.

“Project NextGen will accelerate and streamline the rapid development of the next generation of vaccines and treatments through public-private collaborations,” said the administration official.

“The infusion of a US$5 billion investment, at minimum, will help catalyse scientific advancement in areas that have large public health benefits for the American people, with the goal of developing safe and effective tools for the American people.”

The project, set to be based at HHS, will coordinate across the government and with the private sector on advancing a pipeline of new vaccines and treatments, the HHS spokesperson said.

It will cover all phases of development from lab research and clinical trials to delivery.

It will focus on creating long-lasting monoclonal antibodies resistant to new Covid-19 variants, as well as broader vaccines that can protect against several different coronaviruses.

The project also seeks to speed up the development of vaccines that produce mucosal immunity and can be administered through the nose, in hopes they can dramatically reduce infection and transmission rates. REUTERS

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