White House names five companies with most promising vaccine candidates

June 3, 2020

With the goal of securing a supply of coronavirus vaccines for Americans, the Trump administration has identified the five companies it believes have the most promising candidates. 

According to the New York Times, the White House is planning to announce that the top SARS-CoV-2 vaccines are being developed by: Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Merck and a collaboration between University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.

Despite the skepticism over Trump’s stated hope of securing enough vaccines for Americans by the end of this year, the White House has shown that it’s ready to back up that goal with big investments. So far, Moderna, J&J and Oxford/AstraZeneca have already received $2.2 billion in federal funding — and being named a company with a “lead candidate” will result in more assistance. 

The effort to speed vaccine development and manufacturing scale-up is also impacting a number of other companies in the pharma supply chain. This week, Emergent BioSolutions announced that it has scored a $628 million contract with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to prepare manufacturing capacity of a coronavirus vaccine.

The investments all fall under a White House initiative dubbed “Operation Warp Speed,” which aims to have production capacity ready to go as soon as a vaccine is approved.

The top companies involved in the race for a coronavirus vaccine are using different technologies to develop their candidates including mRNA and adenoviral vector. The candidates from Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca have moved ahead of the pack in recent weeks and are already in phase 2 trials. But each company is already scaling-up manufacturing capacity with the goal of producing 1 billion doses by the end of next year.

The Trump administration is expected to make a formal announcement about its choices for lead candidates within the next few weeks. According to officials, about 30,000 people will take part in phase 3 trials for each vaccine, if the candidate makes it through phase 2. Some of the late-stage trials could take place outside of the U.S. in coronavirus hotspots.

Read the full New York Times report.