Coronavirus vaccine development could cost $1B

Biotech firm Moderna said Monday it created its first batch of a vaccine

Developing a vaccine to prevent COVID-19, the coronavirus that has killed at least 2,700 people in China, could cost well over a billion dollars, vaccine policy expert Kelly Cappio of Avalere Health told FOX Business.

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"When we talk about vaccine development programs, a typical vaccine development program from discovery to licensure can cost up to a billion dollars and take up to a decade," Cappio said. "Obviously in an outbreak like this, the timeline is compressed because of an urgent public health need."

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Cappio pointed out that only a small percentage of the early-stage vaccines making headlines will ultimately be approved. Massachusetts-based biotech firm Moderna said Monday that it created its first batch of a vaccine while working in tandem with federal researchers.

Another lab in California, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, said it created a coronavirus vaccine three hours after getting access to the virus's genetic sequence in mid-January.

French lab scientists in hazmat gear inserting liquid in test tubes manipulate potentially infected patient samples at Pasteur Institute in Paris, Feb. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Both vaccines will need to go through extensive testing before they can actually help the public, however.

"Vaccine development in general involves ... a high risk of failure. These vaccines can't be developed overnight," Cappio said. "It's important to have a lot of candidates in the early pipeline."

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Both Moderna and Inovio received millions in funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI), which is backed by billionaire Bill Gates. Inovio received $9 million from CEPI, while Moderna's announcement of its partnership with CEPI didn't include a dollar amount.

CEPI's goal is to raise and invest at least $1 billion to fight diseases like COVID-19 until 2021.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
INOINOVIO PHARMACEUTICALS10.95-0.29-2.58%
MRNAMODERNA INC.70.53-0.31-0.44%

"Public-private partnerships are critical ... Resource constraints are really at play," Cappio said. "Often if companies are responding, they're having to shift resources internally away from another line of business."

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Earlier this week, President Trump requested $2.5 billion from Congress to fight the virus. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York countered with a proposal for $8.5 billion.

President Donald Trump, with members of the President's Coronavirus Task Force, during a news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Feb. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Trump told reporters he was open to spending "whatever's appropriate."

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The National Institutes of Health's top infectious disease chief cautioned a vaccine won't be ready for widespread use for a year or more. But Dr. Anthony Fauci said even if the virus wanes soon, it's "quite conceivable" that it might "come back and recycle next year." By then, he said, "we hope to have a vaccine."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.