The Trump administration has picked five COVID-19 vaccine candidates that it views as the most likely to be successful, according to an article published Wednesday by The New York Times. The newspaper stated that four of the companies whose candidates made the list are U.S.-based: Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Merck (NYSE:MRK), and Pfizer (NYSE:PFE). The other is U.K.-headquartered AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN), which is partnering with the University of Oxford. Pfizer is also partnering with Germany-based BioNTech (NASDAQ:BNTX). More than 100 organizations and companies are currently working on vaccines to prevent COVID-19.
Moving at "warp speed"
The selection of these finalists is part of the administration's Operation Warp Speed, an initiative to rapidly develop a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. President Trump announced this effort on May 15, referring to it as a "massive scientific, industrial, and logistical endeavor unlike anything our country has seen since the Manhattan Project."
Each of the drugmakers selected by the White House will receive access to extra federal funds to support their coronavirus vaccine development, as well as logistical support and assistance with clinical trials. Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and the AstraZeneca-Oxford partnership have already received a combined $2.2 billion in federal funding.
The vaccines being developed by Moderna and the AstraZeneca-Oxford team are currently being evaluated in phase 2 clinical studies. Pfizer and BioNTech initiated a phase 1/2 study of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate in April. Johnson & Johnson and Merck haven't initiated clinical studies of their vaccine candidates yet.
These five finalists haven't been officially named by the White House yet. The New York Times stated that senior Trump administration officials indicated that an announcement will be made "in the next few weeks."