US Covid-19 research initiative Project NextGen is continuing apace, announcing on Friday (13 October) that the Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) had selected its initial next-generation vaccine candidates for $500m in awards.

Project NextGen is the follow-up to Operation Warp Speed, the $18bn Covid vaccine development programme. Though smaller in scope, this grant brings the total funding of NextGen to around $2bn following August’s $1.4bn award.

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The vaccine candidates come from three relatively small companies and have received proportionately small funding amounts: $8.5m to CastleVax, which is developing a vector-based intranasal vaccine, and $10m to Codagenix and Gritstone Bio, working on a live-attenuated intranasal vaccine and a self-amplifying mRNA vaccine, respectively.

The majority of the funding will go towards logistics development and future preparedness measures. Logistics funding is mostly focused on cold-chain sample management and laboratory capacity for testing. The largest beneficiary was Thermo Fisher’s PPD, receiving $126.5m to provide a laboratory for analysing immune responses from the vaccines.

Perhaps the most interesting funding, however, is for the advanced technologies to prepare for a future Covid-19 outbreak. Luminary Labs received $100m to run two competitions encouraging the development of patches for vaccine delivery, which could have a large impact on vaccine hesitancy by those who are needle-averse.

Money has also gone to Covid-19 prophylaxis research alongside $20m to investigate the use of commercial wearables for early respiratory illness detection. Commercial wearables are an area of increasing interest among governments, healthcare providers and insurance companies due to their widespread adoption and diagnostic capabilities.

Despite the US government’s efforts to encourage continued research into Covid-19 treatments, the disease is a fading concern for pharmaceutical companies, with corporate filing mentions of the theme falling by over 1,000% since October 2022. As large-scale government funding has dried up and the world has focused on other disease areas, research will inevitably shift to where the money is.

Despite this, GlobalData's ongoing poll measuring concern about Covid-19 among respondents across its network of business-to-business websites has found that 29% are reporting that they are 'very concerned' this month (October), the highest proportion since January this year.

Our signals coverage is powered by GlobalData’s Thematic Engine, which tags millions of data items across six alternative datasets — patents, jobs, deals, company filings, social media mentions and news — to themes, sectors and companies. These signals enhance our predictive capabilities, helping us to identify the most disruptive threats across each of the sectors we cover and the companies best placed to succeed.