The Trump administration’s coronavirus vaccine program, called Operation Warp Speed, has been shrouded in secrecy since launching in May.
Some tiny biotechs have started to announce they have been selected as part of Operation Warp Speed, sending their stocks soaring.
The government has said that Operation Warp Speed selected 14 vaccine research programs, but it has declined to specify which companies are involved.
Warp Speed is the federal government’s effort to have 300 million doses of a safe and effective vaccine by January 2021.
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On Friday, a tiny San Francisco biotech made a bold claim.
The biotech called Vaxart said it was chosen by Operation Warp Speed, an effort from the Trump administration to speed up work on a coronavirus vaccine and make an immunization broadly available by early next year.
In reality, its vaccine candidate has just been selected for early research in primates. Other major companies are already testing coronavirus vaccines in people. Still, the stock more than doubled on Friday, before giving up some of its gains.
“When I read the news this morning, they made this sound like it was a major component of Operation Warp Speed,” said biotech investor Brad Loncar. “It’s not like this is some huge bet by the government on this technology. It’s just being folded into some animal studies.”
A spokesman at the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees Warp Speed, declined to comment. Vaxart declined to make executives available for interviews and didn’t respond to written questions.
Operation Warp Speed’s goal is 300 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine by January
The US government launched Operation Warp Speed last month. It’s an effort spanning several federal agencies that aims to have 300 million doses of a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine by January 2021. The government said it selected 14 vaccine programs to initially focus on, with plans to cut that number in half over the next few months. But it hasn’t publicly identified the drugmakers and biotechs who are involved.
The New York Times reported on June 3 that the Trump administration had picked five vaccine projects for Operation Warp Speed, from Moderna, Oxford and AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Pfizer.
Pfizer has publicly said that it’s involved with Operation Warp Speed and Moderna has confirmed its vaccine is part of the program. The US is also funding a vaccine being developed by GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi, which was not included in the reported list of finalists.
Vaxart’s small size and lack of experience in bringing vaccines to market also raises questions about the company’s ability to meet the goals of Operation Warp Speed.
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The company, which went public in 2018 through a reverse merger, had 14 employees at the end of 2019. By mid-March, Vaxart was down to 10 workers, and the company said in a securities filings that its workforce “would be insufficient to commercialize our vaccine product candidates.”
“If they’re wanting to really get in the race they need more capability than what a company with 10 …read more
Source:: Business Insider