Biotech Sector Pursues a Vaccine as COVID-19 Cases Continue to Rise | Financial Buzz

Biotech Sector Pursues a Vaccine as COVID-19 Cases Continue to Rise

The number of new COVID-19 cases per day in the United States continues to rise. While significantly expanded testing probably accounts for the increase in numbers, some experts claim other measures show the virus is making a comeback.

According to data provided by Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center, 39,972 new cases were recorded June 25, greater than the previous record set April 24, which saw 36,291 new cases.

In the meantime, several biotech companies are racing towards a development of a vaccine. Recently Vaxart, Inc. (NASDAQ: VXRT), a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing oral vaccines that are administered by tablet rather than by injection, announced Friday that its oral COVID-19 vaccine has been selected to participate in a non-human primate (NHP) challenge study, organized and funded by Operation Warp Speed, a new national program aiming to provide substantial quantities of safe, effective vaccine for Americans by January 2021.

The study is designed to demonstrate the efficacy of Vaxart’s oral COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

“We are very pleased to be one of the few companies selected by Operation Warp Speed, and that ours is the only oral vaccine being evaluated.  SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is primarily transmitted by viral particles that enter through the mucosa – nose, mouth or eyes – strongly suggesting that mucosal immunity could serve as the first line of defense,” said Andrei Floroiu, Chief Executive Officer of Vaxart Inc.  “In addition, our vaccine is a room temperature-stable tablet, an enormous logistical advantage in large vaccination campaigns.”

In addition, Moderna, Inc. (NASDAQ: MRNA), a clinical stage biotechnology company pioneering messenger RNA (mRNA) and Catalent, Inc. (NYSE: CTLT), announced Thursday a collaboration for large-scale, commercial fill-finish manufacturing of Moderna’s mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate (mRNA-1273) at Catalent’s biologics facility in Bloomington, Indiana.

As part of the agreement, Catalent will provide vial filling and packaging capacity, as well as additional staffing required for 24×7 manufacturing operations at the site to support production of an initial 100 million doses of the vaccine candidate intended to supply the U.S. market starting in the third quarter of 2020.

“We appreciate this collaboration with Catalent and the flexibility of their team to deliver critical fill-finish capacity for mRNA-1273 at unprecedented speed,” said Juan Andres, Moderna’s Chief Technical Operations and Quality Officer. “It has been wonderful to see both teams working together to support the common good.”

“Catalent is proud to partner with Moderna in its work to address this critical public health need,” commented John Chiminski, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Catalent. “Catalent’s proven expertise in manufacturing scale-up and commercial production are well suited to support Moderna’s efforts to prepare for wide-scale supply of this vaccine candidate so that it is available if appropriate to address the pandemic.”