White House plans to invest $5 billion in vaccine development to control COVID
The Biden Administration Monday announced a $5 billion program to accelerate the development of next-generation COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.
Like Operation Warp Speed, which developed and distributed vaccines in the early days of the pandemic, Project NextGen will cut across government agencies and involve public-private collaborations, a senior Biden official told USA TODAY.
Current vaccines, developed rapidly in the heat of the emergency, are “really good, but they’re not great,” said Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist who worked with the administration to develop the new program. “There is a substantial amount of work (to be done) to take these good vaccines and hopefully achieve better vaccines.”
Project NextGen has three primary goals, which Osterholm and colleagues laid out in a “roadmap” issued in February: Develop a nasal vaccine that will hopefully prevent infection as well as a severe disease; develop longer-lasting vaccines; and create “broader” vaccines that protect against all variants and several different coronaviruses
It will also include funding to develop more durable monoclonal antibodies resistant to new variants, according to the administration. Antibodies were highly effective treatments earlier in the pandemic but have not been able to keep up with the virus as it evolved and are no longer available.
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The administration said the initial allocation of $5 billion for Project NextGen will be financed through money saved from contracts costing less than originally estimated. The investment was first reported Monday by the Washington Post.
Dr. Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group who was also involved in the earlier roadmap, said he and others have been advising the White House since last summer to launch something like Project NextGen.
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