Moderna Inc. MRNA has signed an agreement for a $483 million funding from a federal agency, the biotechnology company announced Thursday.
The funding from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority will help the company's novel coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine advance through clinical trials to an approval by the United States Food and Drugs Administration, if it is granted.
Moderna said it is also looking to add another 150 people to its workforce in the U.S. this year to help with the development of the vaccine named "mRNA-1273."
"Vaccines are a critical tool for saving lives and stopping the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus," BARDA Director Rick Bright said in a statement.
"BARDA's goal is to have [a] vaccine available as quickly as possible and preparing now for advanced stage clinical trials and production scale-up while the Phase 1 is underway could shave months off development of COVID-19 vaccines."
The first phase of the clinical trials for the Moderna vaccine began on March 16 in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The company expects to move into phase two trials by June.
Phase three trials could begin as soon as fall, subject to approval from authorities, Moderna said.
White House Coronavirus Task Force lead member Anthony Fauci earlier warned that a vaccine, even if developed rapidly, is unlikely to be available before 12 to 18 months.
Others, including Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. INO and Johnson & Johnson JNJ, have also been working on developing a coronavirus vaccine.
At least 671,151 coronavirus cases in the U.S. and 2.1 million globally have been confirmed by press time, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Moderna's shares closed 9% higher at $40.60 on Thursday and added another 20% in the after-hours session at $48.70.
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