The Trump administration has selected five companies, including Moderna Inc, AstraZeneca Plc and Pfizer Inc, as the most likely candidates to produce a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing senior officials.
The other companies are Johnson & Johnson and Merck & Co Inc, according to the newspaper.
The selected companies will get access to additional government funds, help in running clinical trials, and financial and logistical support, the paper reported.
There is no approved vaccine for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.
The report did not mention potential vaccines from French drugmaker Sanofi, Novavax Inc and Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc – among the more than 100 vaccines in development globally.
The announcement of the decision will be made at the White House in the next few weeks, the report said.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We cannot comment on information that is market-moving,” a US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) official said.
The companies on the list are the farthest along in developing a vaccine and have significant manufacturing capacity.
“We have not heard anything directly from HHS about whether our program is or is not in Warp Speed and therefore cannot comment further,” a spokeswoman with Sanofi said.
The company is currently working on two vaccine programmes to prevent against COVID-19. One of them, in collaboration with Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline, has received financial support from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).
“Our existing collaboration with BARDA on the non-clinical and phase 1 studies for our recombinant vaccine candidate is on track. We believe that BARDA will continue to support our program as it advances in development,” the spokeswoman added.
The United States is planning massive clinical trials involving 100,000 to 150,000 volunteers in total, with the goal of delivering an effective vaccine by the end of this year. To meet that deadline, the government aims to start mid-stage testing in July.
The first two vaccines to start mid-stage trials would likely be from Moderna and the AstraZeneca/Oxford University combination, the director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr Francis Collins, told Reuters news agency in an interview last month. He said he expected vaccine candidates from J&J and Merck to eventually join the trial effort.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Tuesday he hoped to have “a couple hundred million doses” by the start of 2021, according to a CNN report.