Coronavirus vaccine development in the U.S. is about to shift into a higher gear. Emergent BioSolutions (NYSE:EBS), a company that helps the federal government prepare for potential public health threats, received a task order from Uncle Sam valued at around $628 million for the rapid production of leading SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates. 

Shifting role 

Emergent BioSolutions develops and manufactures vaccines that the U.S. government stockpiles in case of an emergency like an outbreak of smallpox or anthrax. Under the aegis of the Warp Speed Program, Washington now wants to put Emergent to work developing and manufacturing some of the vaccine candidates that could prevent further COVID-19 outbreaks.

Coronavirus vaccine and a house.

Image source: Getty Images.

Emergent's long-running contract with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) established three facilities in Baltimore that can rapidly manufacture hundreds of millions of vaccine doses in an emergency. Under the new task order, Emergent will receive an investment of around $85.4 million to expand its facilities in order to produce millions of doses of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates even as they are still in clinical trials testing them for efficacy and safety.

Multipartner manufacturer

Emergent will commit manufacturing capacity valued at around $542.7 million to produce those vaccine candidates through 2021. This means leading vaccine innovators supported by the U.S. government will be able to get Emergent to manufacture enough doses of their vaccine candidate for them to run clinical trials. Emergent will also begin mass production of candidates if their initial clinical trial data looks promising.

Emergent currently has COVID-19-related collaboration agreements with vaccine developers including Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ). In April, it agreed to provide up to $135 million in services regarding J&J's lead SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate.