The US Department of Health and Human Services has awarded two contracts valued at $215m for the advanced development of seasonal flu vaccines.

Clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company Novavax received a $97m contract to develop new vaccines using insect cells to create virus-like particles that stimulate a strong immune response in humans.

New Jersey-based VaxInnate was awarded the second contract, worth $117.9m, to develop a recombinant influenza vaccine technology based on combining influenza and bacteria proteins.

The contracts will run over three years and may be extended for two more, boosting the project value to $314.5m.

US Department of Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, “The 2009 H1N1 pandemic demonstrated the need for technologies that can provide vaccines more rapidly.

“These next-generation flu vaccines hold the potential to be even more effective and to make the first and last doses of vaccine available sooner than existing flu vaccines which can save more lives during a pandemic, as well as during seasonal flu outbreaks.”

Both companies will conduct clinical safety and efficacy studies, and optimise and validate their manufacturing processes.