Government funding ‘very important’ to coronavirus vaccine development: Top Harvard scientist
Yahoo Finance – August 22, 2020
Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC) discusses “Operation Warp Speed” which has allocated nearly $11 billion to pharmaceutical companies to accelerate the discovery and production of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The U.S. government has allocated nearly $11 billion to pharmaceutical companies to accelerate the discovery and production of a coronavirus vaccine — and it’s money well spent, Harvard University vaccine researcher Dr. Dan Barouch told Yahoo Finance in a recent interview.
He said the spending initiative, known as Operation Warp Speed, will deliver a vaccine faster than pharma companies could on their own, and he defended the government’s decision to fund vaccine candidates before clinical trials prove they can safely protect against the virus.
“It’s important that the government has invested heavily in vaccines,” Barouch said. “I think it will result in safe and effective vaccines a lot sooner than would have been done otherwise.”
“Some people have have misinterpreted speed as lack of attention to safety, which is not actually the case at all,” said Barouch, who has collaborated with pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) on the development of a vaccine.
The U.S. government and Johnson & Johnson have invested a combined $1 billion in the vaccine candidate co-developed by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where Barouch runs the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research.
Next month, Johnson & Johnson will begin the largest late-stage coronavirus vaccine trial yet, involving 60,000 people in the U.S. and other countries, the company confirmed on Thursday.
Pharmaceutical companies Moderna (MRNA) and Pfizer (PFE ) — both of which received federal funding — announced last month that each had begun phase three trials on a respective vaccine candidate.
Operation Warp Speed, announced by President Trump in April, aims to produce 300 million doses of a vaccine by January 2021 through financial support for development at selected companies and the purchase of vaccines prior to their completion of the testing and review process.
“Some parts of it make a lot of sense,” Barouch said. “For example, helping providing resources to multiple different vaccine developers to produce multiple vaccines.”
“Then the willingness to take financial risks, helping to provide resources to manufacture vaccines at large scale before the demonstration of clinical efficacy,” he said.
Barouch spoke to Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer in an episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.
Earlier this month, Trump said he was “optimistic” that a vaccine will be ready around Election Day, Nov. 3, while Barouch said the best possible timeline would deliver a vaccine by the end of 2020, with distribution to follow in 2021.
An accelerated vaccine development process will not compromise the safety of resulting vaccines, Barouch said, so long as the public and private sector take necessary precautions.
“It is incumbent upon not just the government but vaccine developers and scientists, physicians to ensure that these vaccines although being developed quickly, will have a robust safety database,” he said. “And all indications are that they will.”