Vaxart has announced a funding boost for its oral Covid-19 vaccine candidate, with the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) awarding the company $9.27m.

This funding is earmarked for launching a Phase IIb clinical trial of the oral pill vaccine candidate, which is set to involve around 10,000 subjects.

The funds from BARDA will support preparations for the trial, where Vaxart’s oral vaccine candidate will be compared against an approved messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccine.

This programme is part of Project NextGen, a $5bn effort by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) aimed at developing new therapies and vaccines that offer long-lasting protection against Covid-19 compared to first-generation vaccines.

Vaxart’s oral vaccine platform is aligned with BARDA’s desired features, such as the ability to induce mucosal immunity and offer a cross-reactive response to several Covid-19 variants.

Vaxart interim CEO Dr Michael Finney said: “We are very honoured to receive this BARDA award, which will support the innovative approach of our oral pill vaccine platform.

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“We believe our oral pill vaccine platform may ultimately hold the promise of revolutionising how we fight pandemics and how we vaccinate against several infectious diseases. 

“Our team is very excited about this contract, which allows us to prepare to move forward with our oral Covid vaccine programme, together with BARDA.”

As a clinical-stage biotechnology company, Vaxart focuses on the development of various oral recombinant vaccines leveraging its delivery platform.

These vaccines are created as pills that can be stored and transported without the requirement for refrigeration, also eliminating the needle-stick injury risk.

The development programmes of the company comprise pill vaccines for norovirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), seasonal influenza, and a therapeutic human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

In July last year, Vaxart reported positive topline findings from a Phase II trial of its norovirus vaccine candidate.