US Health Authorities Fund Moderna’s Influenza Vaccine Development in Race Against Future Pandemics

Pandemic statistics on screenPhoto by Markus Spiske on

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the motive of being better prepared for future pandemics, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded Moderna roughly $176 million to aid the development of a new mRNA-based pandemic influenza vaccine.

This grant is part of an initiative led by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and forms a step towards a wider strategy aimed at preparing the nation better against future public health crises. The program is dubbed the Rapid Response Partnership Vehicle (RRPV) Consortium and is aimed at nurturing innovation and boosting collaboration between the government and industry.

“The lessons we learned from the COVID-19 crisis are now shaping our preparedness for future public health emergencies,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “The funding granted to Moderna will yield more vaccine options to protect against influenza, while enhancing our pandemic response capabilities.”

This funding will aid Moderna in developing additional influenza vaccine response capabilities, leveraging the large-scale mRNA-based manufacturing platforms within the US. It adds to the ongoing seasonal influenza vaccine development and is part of a broader measure aimed at equitable access to vaccines.

The mRNA technology employed by Moderna’s vaccine proved to be a game-changer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its wider adoption for potential influenza pandemics could supplement traditional vaccine technologies. The HHS’s move comes despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) assurance that the current risk to human health from influenza, such as avian influenza A(H5N1), remains relatively low.

Moderna’s influenza vaccine, once successful, could enhance response timelines against a new virus strain, as seen with H1N1 in 2009. The funding will allow for the rapid development and manufacturing of an mRNA vaccine targeted against various influenza subtypes. The additional funding also covers contingency large-scale production in case of a pandemic.

This support from HHS not only expands national response capabilities but also introduces a fourth alternative to the existing egg, cell, and recombinant protein-based approaches to the production of licensed influenza vaccines.

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