DARPA Grants Moderna $ 56 Million Grant to Build ‘Espresso Machine’ for COVID-19 Response

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As the coronavirus pandemic continues into its seventh month, Moderna Inc. has been at foreground of it, testing a potential vaccine against the deadly virus.

Now, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotechnology company is getting additional help from the U.S. government to manufacture its drugs in a mobile factory.

On Thursday, the company announced a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) grant of up to $ 56 million “to fund the development of a mobile manufacturing prototype” designed to accelerate production of vaccines and therapeutics.

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The grant, which is part of DARPA’s Nucleic Acids On Demand World-Wide (NOW) initiative, will allow Moderna to create a 6-by-6-by-6-foot container that would be capable of producing “hundreds of doses. “in just a few short days. These containers could be placed anywhere in the world, making distribution more transparent.

The mobile unit has been compared to an espresso machine, given its compact size.

“We look forward to capitalizing on our experience in the rapid design and manufacture of vaccines, as demonstrated by mRNA-1273, our COVID-19 vaccine currently in a phase 3 study,” said Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, in a press release. declaration. “This new award will allow us to explore the scope of our technology to potentially enable rapid, field and automated manufacturing of vaccines and therapeutics for military personnel and civilians around the world in a container that can be rapidly deployed. . “

Bancel, who has always said Moderna expects to be able to request emergency use of its coronavirus vaccine as early as November 25, added on an investor call that the development would be crucial for the military.

The pandemic has hit the United States, causing more than 7 million people to contract the virus and more than 210,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Last month Moderna announcement its coronavirus vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273, “induced consistently high levels” of neutralizing antibody levels in 40 healthy participants in two age groups – 56-70 and 71 and over.

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Moderna has come under scrutiny for not recruiting enough minorities into its vaccine trials. MRNA-1273 entered Phase 3 trial in July, Fox News Previously reported.

Moderna shares have skyrocketed in 2020, rising more than 200%.

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FOX Business reporter RN White contributed to this story.

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