The Biden administration announced $5 billion in federal funding will be directed to Project NextGen, the anticipated successor to Operation Warp Speed. Project NextGen will be coordinated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The announcement came the same day that President Biden signed H.J.Res. 7, which terminates the national COVID-19 pandemic emergency.
What was Operation Warp Speed?
Project NextGen will build off Operation Warp Speed and the record-breaking achievements of biotech companies like Moderna.
“The shining star that everyone talks about when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic response,” said Ambika Bumb, Ph.D., Deputy Executive Director at the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense, “was Operation Warp Speed.”
In March 2020, the Trump administration allocated $30 billion towards COVID-19 vaccine development and distribution.
By December, mRNA vaccines began being administered to the public – an unprecedented record with the fastest vaccine pre-covid taking four years to market.
Moreover, Operation Warp Speed supported the development of new treatments for COVID-19, such as monoclonal antibodies and convalescent plasma therapies.
What is the future of vaccine development post-Warp Speed?
Focusing on treating both the next strain of COVID-19 and potential new coronaviruses, Project NextGen will be a collaboration between HHS, other government agencies, and the private sector.
Project NextGen has three goals:
- Creating long-lasting monoclonal antibodies to address the evolving virus.
- Developing vaccines with mucosal immunity to reduce infection risks.
- Developing pan-coronavirus vaccines against COVID variants and new threats.
Currently, COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing long-term illness and serious complications but are not as effective at preventing initial infection and person-to-person transmission.
Project NextGen seeks to fund monoclonal technology to address the evolving COVID-19 virus, its variants, and other coronaviruses.
Developments for the next vaccine could also include possible nasal administration. Preventing the spread of COVID-19 right at the site of transmission (the nostrils) would be a major breakthrough. Although nasal vaccine treatments are currently still in trial, Project NextGen’s new operations could make development happen even faster.
HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness Dawn O’Connell told The Washington Post in an exclusive interview that the government is already “surveying the landscape out there” for private sector collaborations.
O’Connell said of particular focus to the new government funding is companies developing monoclonal technology.
Operation Warp Speed demonstrated the triumphs of cross-collaboration between government and biotech company actors. Project NextGen is a step in the right direction for the future of public health.