HHS Announced $176M Funds to Moderna for Bird Flu Vaccine Development


Moderna is set to receive $176 million in federal funding to develop a human vaccine against bird flu following outbreaks in dairy cows across several states, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Tuesday.

The U.S. has recorded three human cases of bird flu in 2024, all involving individuals who had regular contact with dairy cows. As of July, over 130 herds across 12 states have reported infections.

The HHS award will support Moderna in developing an mRNA-based pandemic influenza vaccine. This candidate utilizes mRNA technology that proved successful during the COVID-19 response, resulting in one of the first FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines. According to HHS, mRNA vaccines can complement traditional vaccine technologies during a pandemic influenza emergency, addressing concerns related to H5N1 avian influenza, even though the current risk to human health is low.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra stated, “We have successfully taken lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and used them to better prepare for future public health crises. As part of that, we continue to develop new vaccines and other tools to help address influenza and bolster our pandemic response capabilities.”

The funding, provided through the federal Rapid Response Partnership Vehicle, will allow Moderna to enhance its vaccine response capability, including large-scale commercial mRNA manufacturing and ongoing seasonal flu vaccine development. HHS secured a fair pricing agreement to ensure cost-effective access to vaccines.

Moderna will prepare materials and conduct clinical trials to gather safety and immune response data to support FDA approval and potential large-scale production in a public health emergency. The award also facilitates the rapid development of mRNA vaccines targeted at various influenza virus subtypes or strains with pandemic potential. This flexibility allows for a quick pivot to address other emerging infectious diseases if needed.

If successfully developed, Moderna’s mRNA-based pandemic flu vaccine could improve response times in the event of a new virus strain emergence. HHS cited the 2009 swine flu pandemic as an example of the need for swift vaccine development.

In 2023, the federal Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, part of HHS, requested proposals from Moderna and other companies to develop mRNA vaccines for potential public health emergencies caused by influenza viruses, including H5N1.

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