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The Vaccine Race – Who is the Winner?

Posted by | Fuld & Company

Article by: Shiv Nayyar and Brad Thompson

The Vaccine Race

If you’re too young to remember the great ‘Space Race of the Cold War’ era, don’t worry—you have definitely witnessed another historic competition that will have a similar impact on mankind. The event I’m referring to is the great ‘Vaccine Race’, which is still ongoing three years after the COVID-19 pandemic first broke out. Although the race for a vaccine was more intense during the first year of the pandemic, the vaccine space is still bustling with activity at unprecedented levels.

Extraordinary Research Funding

As in the Space Race, the great Vaccine Race saw multiple countries and companies spending billions of dollars to accelerate science and technology to achieve something seemingly impossible and unprecedented. I would rather call it, something on the scale of reaching the moon—the creation from scratch of a brand-new vaccine within months.

Obviously, this monumental breakthrough was made possible with unimaginable sums of money. According to some industry estimates, about $5.9 billion was invested in COVID-19 vaccine research through March 20211. A majority of this funding came from the United States ($2 billion) and Germany ($1.5 billion)1. Unsurprisingly, the top three recipients of this largesse were Moderna Therapeutics ($956 million), Janssen ($910 million), and Pfizer/BioNTech ($800 million)1. There were, however, at least 100 other smaller manufacturers, institutes, and research labs that received some amount of funding for their research on the COVID-19 vaccine as well.

The Rise of the Unknown Players

The funding, along with the accelerated review and approval process, provided an unparalleled opportunity for smaller and relatively unknown players to prove the safety and efficacy of their technologies/platforms. Significantly, due to their smaller size, these companies were able to quickly pivot from their legacy programs, which were mostly in the fields of oncology and autoimmune diseases, to focus on developing vaccines for COVID-19. We all know about Moderna and BioNTech now, but there are many other companies with impressive and unique technologies/platforms that have proven to be effective and safe for use in humans.

Fuld’s Perspective

Fuld has been tracking hundreds of these companies since the start of the pandemic. We believed the clinical evidence these smaller players generated during the pandemic would help them expedite their programs well beyond COVID-19. Companies such as Novavax (protein subunit), Inovio (DNA), and Medicago (plant-based adjuvant) have promising and potentially more stable platforms than mRNA. They also have products that are either already approved in some countries such as Novavax’s Nuvaxovid and Medicago’s Covifenz, or have assets in ongoing late-stage clinical development such as Inovio’s INO-4800. Other innovations in delivery mechanisms including intranasal and oral routes have also entered clinical trials and have generated data that can help them get approvals for vaccines and other product classes.

Just as the Space Race gave birth to ARPANET, which became the modern-day Internet, the Vaccine Race has also introduced new technologies that can change the way we think about preventive and curative medicine. In the end, it’s science and human progress that emerge as the winners in such competitions.

If you would like to learn more, or if you have any questions on current or potentially disruptive innovations in vaccines or healthcare in general, please reach out to me at



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