Home U.S A next generation coronavirus vaccine is in the works. But initial funding...

A next generation coronavirus vaccine is in the works. But initial funding was denied.

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Drew Weissman realized a year ago that even if the COVID-19 vaccines then in progress were eventually approved, it might not be enough. The world might need a next-generation vaccine to rid itself of this pandemic.

Recent outbreaks of more resilient variants suggest he could be right. And yet, when Weissman – discoverer of the mRNA science behind two of the current vaccines – and a team of fellow scientists took a proposal for a more versatile coronavirus vaccine to the National Institutes of Health for funding last May, they left empty-handed. 

Drew Weissman, center, receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with the co-discoverer of the mRNA science behind the vaccine, Katalin Karikó.

The group had proposed research on vaccines to protect against any variant of the virus, known as a universal or pan vaccine. 

Weissman doesn’t blame NIH staff for the denial; the agency turns down about 80% of its grant applications. Weissman said staff initially wanted to put the grant on a fast-track for approval in September, less than half the time it normally takes. Then, Weissman says, their hands were tied by negative scores from the independent scientists asked to review the grant proposal. 

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