The US government has awarded Maryland-based Novavax biotechnology company $1.6 billion to develop a potential coronavirus vaccine, the company said Tuesday.

The award is given as a result of company's selection to Operation Warp Speed governmental program that aims to begin delivering millions of doses of an effective virus vaccine in 2021, Novavax said in a statement.

The money will be used to complete late-stage clinical development, including a Phase 3 trial of Novavax’s candidate vaccine NVX-CoV2373, establish manufacturing and deliver 100 million doses of the vaccine as early as late 2020.

"We are honored to partner with Operation Warp Speed to move our vaccine candidate forward with extraordinary urgency in the quest to provide vital protection to our nation’s population," said Stanley C. Erck, President and Chief Executive Officer of Novavax.

"We are grateful to the U.S. government for its confidence in our technology platform, and are working tirelessly to develop and produce a vaccine for this global health crisis."

A Phase 1/2 clinical trial of the candidate vaccine began in Australia in May on 130 participants aged between 18 and 59 and preliminary immunogenicity and safety results are expected at the end of July, the company said.

The Phase 2 portion to assess immunity, safety, and COVID-19 disease reduction is expected to begin thereafter.

The US is the worst-hit country by the pandemic with more than 2.9 million cases and over 130,000 fatalities, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University. In all, 924,000 recoveries have been recorded.