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U.S. Public Investment in mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines

Including support of research in the 3 decades before the pandemic, the U.S. government invested nearly $32 billion in the development, production, and purchase of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, a study shows. “These public investments translated into millions of lives saved and were crucial in developing the mRNA vaccine technology that also has the potential to tackle future pandemics and to treat diseases beyond covid-19,” the authors conclude. “To maximize overall health impact, policy makers should ensure equitable global access to publicly funded health technologies.”

Information from the NIH Report Portfolio Online Reporting Tool Expenditures and Results (RePORTER) and other public databases for Jan. 1985 through Mar. 2022 showed these investments in 4 key innovations underlying these vaccines (lipid nanoparticle, mRNA synthesis or modification, prefusion spike protein structure, and mRNA vaccine biotechnology) and direct purchases of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines: “34 NIH funded research grants that were directly related to mRNA covid-19 vaccines were identified. These grants combined with other identified US government grants and contracts totaled $31.9bn (£26.3bn; €29.7bn), of which $337m was invested pre-pandemic. Pre-pandemic, the NIH invested $116m (35%) in basic and translational science related to mRNA vaccine technology, and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) ($148m; 44%) and the Department of Defense ($72m; 21%) invested in vaccine development. After the pandemic started, $29.2bn (92%) of US public funds purchased vaccines, $2.2bn (7%) supported clinical trials, and $108m (<1%) supported manufacturing plus basic and translational science.”

Source: BMJ