COVID-19 is a global emergency of unprecedented scale. Affecting all 7.2 billion people worldwide, it is largest pandemic in modern history. Because it could take a year or two before vaccines get approved, manufactured at high volume, and distributed on a global scale, there’s a dire need for treatments to reduce the mortality rate of the coronavirus while we wait. To this end, agencies around the world have been rapidly announcing funding support for the development of diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics against COVID-19.
As a prominent example of this trend, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) is a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) office that handles countermeasures and protection related to pandemics and emerging disease. On January 31, 2020, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) Secretary Alex Azar declared a nationwide Public Health Emergency in response to the novel COVID-19 pandemic.
By early March 2020, BARDA issued a Broad Agency Announcement requesting proposals for COVID-19 diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics through its website. Impressively, it offers funding for its approved projects as rapidly as 30 days or less.
Specifically, BARDA is investing in a range of countermeasures to diagnose, treat, or protect against the COVID-19 using:
- Diagnostic assays for human pan-coronaviruses
- Point-of-Care diagnostic assays for SARS-CoV-2 virus
- Diagnostic assay to detect COVID-19 disease
- Nonclinical model
- Vaccines for novel coronavirus
- Therapeutics for novel coronavirus
- Immunomodulators or therapeutics targeting lung repair
- Pre-exposure and post-exposure prophylaxis for novel coronavirus exposure
- Respiratory protective devices
- Advanced Manufacturing Technologies
Thus far, BARDA has funded 20 COVID-19 specific projects, including 11 diagnostic projects, 6 therapeutic projects, and 3 vaccine projects.
BARDA Funded COVID-19 Projects (As of 04/18/20)
- Diagnostics – 11 projects funded
- Therapeutics – 6 projects funded
- Vaccines – 3 projects funded
Descriptions of several of BARDA’s largest funding awards are described below.
1. BARDA Funding for JPEO-CBRND and SAB Biotherapeutics
A therapeutic to treat COVID-19 is moving forward in development through a partnership between BARDA, the Department of Defense Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense (JPEO-CBRND), and SAb Biotherapeutics, Inc. To progress this therapeutic, BARDA transferred $7.2 million in funding to JPEO-CBRND to support SAb to complete manufacturing and preclinical studies, with an option to conduct a Phase I clinical trial.
The therapeutic, called SAB-185, is part of a new class of immunotherapies that relies on SAb’s platform technology to produce fully human polyclonal antibodies as the basis for the drug. This technology produces the antibodies without the need for blood donations from people who have recovered from the virus; this approach produces greater quantities of the drug than the traditional human antibody donor methods.
2. BARDA Funding for Janssen Research & Development (part of J&J)
Impressively, BARDA is providing Janssen with $420 million as “technical expertise funding” to accelerate its discovery and development process. The funding is intended for supporting the manufacture, nonclinical studies, Phase I clinical trials, and regulatory requirements of promising COVID-19 antiviral candidates identified through Janssen’s ongoing screening.
3. BARDA Funding for Moderna
Moderna, Inc., has also been provided with a funding of $125 million from BARDA to accelerate the development of its SARS-CoV-2 mRNA-1273 vaccine. The funding is meant for non-clinical development, advanced clinical studies, and regulatory support. The Moderna mRNA vaccine platform is rapid and scalable and early clinical trials have already begun with support from NIH.
CIRM Funding for COVID-19
Given the growing surge of COVID-19 cases in California, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) made an announcement that it will support promising discovery, preclinical and clinical trial stage projects to rapidly advance treatments to COVID-19 patients in need.
In total, CIRM has allocated a total of $5 million to support projects related to COVID-19.
CIRM is offering the following award amounts for the project stages described below:
- Clinical Trial (Award Amount $750,000 / Duration of 24 Months)
- Late stage preclinical (Award Amount $400,000 / Duration of 12 Months)
- Translational (Award Amount $350,000 / Duration of 12 Months)
- Discovery (Award Amount $150,000 / Duration of 12 Months)
To learn about applying for these CIRM grants, click here.
Agencies Funding Countermeasures Against COVID-19
In addition to the agencies above, an expanding number of organizations are providing funding for the development of countermeasures against COVID-19.
These agencies include:
- The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA)
- California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM)
- U.S. Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- The NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), & National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
- Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) and Agency for Clinical Research and Biomedical Innovation (AICIB), Portugal
- American Heart Association (AHA)
- LifeArc (Charity Organization)
- Botnar Research Centre for Child Health (BRCCH)
- Irish Health Research Board (IHRB)
- Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) / Fonds National de la Recherche
- The EIT Health Headstart Programme
- British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (BSAC)
- Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)
- Nova Nordisk Foundation
- Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)