Government Will Give Moderna $176 Million to Create an mRNA Bird Flu Vaccine

( – The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has many departments, including the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). This department is responsible for crafting a systemic response to national emergencies, which includes vaccines, therapies, drugs, and diagnostic tools. It recently awarded Moderna a $176 million contract to produce vaccines for the bird flu outbreak, should it become a national health issue.

In March, several cattle farms began experiencing an outbreak of the bird flu, an illness caused by influenza type A that affects animals, namely birds. Humans can contract the illness when they come into contact with an infected species. That’s what happened to three dairy workers since the outbreak began, though there’s no evidence that, in its current state, it’s transmissible between humans. However, there is some concern that should the avian flu evolve, that could change, and the government wants to be prepared.

The money granted by BARDA will go towards funding the late-stage development of an mRNA-based vaccine, the same technology used to create inoculations during the global pandemic. Currently, the biotechnology company has a potential vaccine in the works for the bird flu, though it’s in the first stage and data is not yet available. It will proceed to the next stage if it’s deemed safe and effective.

Dawn O’Connell, the HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, said that the contract between the two allows for accelerated development should the situation change, and they begin “to see some pressure regarding what is happening with the dairy cows and are starting to get extraordinarily concerned about additional human cases, the severity of human cases, and human-to-human transmission.”

In the meantime, the government signed a contract with CSL Seqirus to complete 4.8 million doses of an existing bird flu vaccine that it will distribute first to farm workers. They will first need to undergo FDA and CDC approval.

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