Moderna to Produce Bird Flu Vaccine Under $176M BARDA Project Award

Moderna's office in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Moderna’s office in Cambridge, Massachusetts

iStock, hapabapa

Moderna on Tuesday announced it has been awarded $176 million by a consortium funded by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to develop an mRNA-based vaccine to counter H5N1 avian influenza.

Moderna announced Tuesday it has been awarded $176 million by the Rapid Response Partnership Vehicle, a consortium funded by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, to help speed up the development of a mRNA vaccine to help fight avian flu.

The company announced that the funds are intended to assist the late-stage development and licensure of a pre-pandemic vaccine for H5N1 influenza, a highly infectious disease in birds that has been transmitted to humans. According to Moderna, the agreement will also include options to prepare and accelerate a response to future public health threats.

Moderna initiated development of a vaccine candidate, mRNA-1018, in 2023. The candidate is currently in a Phase I/II study in adults 18 years and older and is being investigated in the H5 and H7 variants of avian flu. Results from the trial are expected sometime this year.

Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and Moderna have worked together previously, most notably during the COVID-19 pandemic when the company was awarded a $483 million contract to help advance its mRNA vaccine.

“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,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement. “We are pleased to continue our collaboration with BARDA to expedite our development efforts for mRNA-based pandemic influenza vaccines and support the global public health community in preparedness against potential outbreaks.”

The Centers for Disease Control reported in April 2024 that a person in the U.S. had tested positive for the H5N1 variant after being exposed to infected dairy cattle in Texas. However, this exposure did not increase the risk to humans and the CDC considers the threat to be low.

Still, people who have close or prolonged exposure to infected birds or animals are at a greater risk. Last week, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that signs of H5 avian flu were found at three separate wastewater sights in the Bay Area.

In May 2024, BARDA selected CSL Seqirus to complete the fill-and-finish process of a pre-pandemic vaccine as part of the National Pre-Pandemic Influenza Vaccine Stockpile (NPIVS) program to increase the number of vaccines on hand for a pre-pandemic response. CSL Seqirus will aim to deliver around 4.8 million doses of its vaccine, which is “matched” to the H5 strain.

Tyler Patchen is a staff writer at BioSpace. You can reach him at tyler.patchen@biospace.com. Follow him on LinkedIn.
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