Coronavirus: US raises funding for Moderna vaccine to nearly $1bn

US biotech company began Phase 3 human trials of its vaccine on Monday

FILE - In this March 16, 2020 file photo, a subject receives a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine by Moderna for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. Britain, the United States and Canada accused Russia on Thursday July 16, 2020, of trying to steal information from researchers seeking a COVID-19 vaccine. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
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The US government has almost doubled its funding for the development of a Covid-19 vaccine by the American biotech company Moderna.

On Monday, the company began a Phase 3 study of its vaccine in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which it said would involve about 30,000 people.

Moderna said on Sunday it had received $472 million (Dh1.73bn) in additional funding from the government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

The money would be used to support its late-stage clinical development, including the expanded Phase 3 study.

The authority's total funding for Moderna’s vaccine, the first in the US to be used in human trials, is now about $955m.

In April, Moderna received $483m from the US federal agency that funds health technology when the experimental vaccine was in an early-stage trial conducted by the National Institutes of Health.

“Encouraged by the Phase 1 data, we believe that our vaccine may aid in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic and preventing future outbreaks,” chief executive Stephane Bancel said.

Vaccines that use the messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) can help the body to develop immunity to viruses and could be developed and made more quickly than traditional ones.

Moderna said it was on track to be able to deliver about 500 million doses a year, and possibly as many as a billion, starting in 2021.

There is still no guarantee that the vaccine will offer protection from the coronavirus, which has infected more than 16.5 million people around the world and killed more than 650,000.

The US has detected about 4.4 million cases and its death rate on Monday exceeded 150,000.

Volunteers for the Moderna trial will not know whether they are receiving the real shot or a placebo.

After two doses, scientists will closely track which group experiences more infections as they go about their daily routines, especially in areas where the virus is still spreading.

Other vaccines made by China and by Britain’s University of Oxford began smaller final-stage tests in Brazil and other hard-hit countries this month.

And in the UAE, the first World Health Organisation-enlisted Phase 3 trial is taking place in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.