US-based biotechnology company Moderna has been awarded a $176m project from the Rapid Response Partnership Vehicle (RRPV) to develop mRNA-based pandemic influenza vaccines.

RRPV is a consortium funded by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to help advance the development of a mRNA vaccine against bird flu.

It is a part of the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) within the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The funding is intended to support late-stage development and licensure of an mRNA-based pre-pandemic vaccine against the H5 influenza virus, a subtype of influenza virus.

The H5 subtype causes a highly infectious, severe disease in birds, known as avian influenza (Bird Flu) and is associated with a risk for spread into the human population.

The project award also includes additional options to prepare and advance a response to future public health threats.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said: “mRNA vaccine technology offers advantages in efficacy, speed of development, and production scalability and reliability in addressing infectious disease outbreaks, as demonstrated during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are pleased to continue our collaboration with BARDA to expedite our development efforts for mRNA-based pandemic influenza vaccines and support the global public health community in preparedness against potential outbreaks.”

In April this year, a person in the US tested positive for the H5N1 variant after being exposed to infected dairy cattle in Texas, according to the Centers for Disease Control report.

In May, BARDA selected CSL Seqirus to complete the fill-and-finish process of a pre-pandemic vaccine as part of the National Pre-Pandemic Influenza Vaccine Stockpile (NPIVS) programme.

The programme aims to increase the number of vaccines for a pre-pandemic response.

CSL Seqirus will aim to deliver around 4.8 million doses of its vaccine against the H5 strain.

Last year, Moderna initiated a Phase 1/2 study to evaluate the safety and immunogenicity of its investigational pandemic influenza vaccine, mRNA-1018, in healthy adults.

In the Phase 1/2 study, the biotechnology company evaluated its vaccine candidates against H5 and H7 avian influenza viruses, and the study results are expected this year.