The U.S. government is launching a program of 5 billion-plus U.S. dollars to accelerate the development of new coronavirus vaccines and treatments, to better guard against current and future COVID variants.
The program, called “Project Next Gen,” would allow the government to partner with private-sector companies to expedite the development of vaccines and therapies.
The new effort will focus on three goals: creating long-lasting monoclonal antibodies after an evolving virus rendered many current treatments ineffective; accelerating the development of vaccines that produce mucosal immunity, which is thought to reduce transmission and infection risks; and speeding efforts to develop pan-coronavirus vaccines to guard against new SARS-CoV-2 variants, as well as other coronaviruses, according to The Washington Post.
“It’s been very clear to us that the market on this is moving very slowly,” Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus coordinator, said Monday. “There’s a lot that government can do, the administration can do, to speed up those tools … for the American people.”
Jha also said that investing in next-generation coronavirus vaccines could have beneficial effects across the health system. “Our ability to develop … vaccines that generate mucosal immunity will have very large benefits for other respiratory pathogens we deal with all the time, like flu and RSV,” he said.
Some of the lab work is underway, and the U.S. government has begun efforts to find potential private-sector partners, according to Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.