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A COVID-19 vaccine candidate emerges
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.—Johnson & Johnson has announced the selection of a lead COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The company has also noted a significant expansion of the existing partnership between the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and the rapid scaling of Johnson & Johnson’s manufacturing capacity—with the goal of providing global supply of more than one billion doses of a vaccine.
Johnson & Johnson expects to initiate human clinical studies of its lead vaccine candidate by September 2020 at the latest, and anticipates that the first batches of a COVID-19 vaccine could be available for emergency use authorization in early 2021. This is a substantially accelerated timeframe, compared to the typical vaccine development process.
“The world is facing an urgent public health crisis and we are committed to doing our part to make a COVID-19 vaccine available and affordable globally as quickly as possible,” said Alex Gorsky, chairman and chief executive officer of Johnson & Johnson. “As the world’s largest healthcare company, we feel a deep responsibility to improve the health of people around the world every day. Johnson & Johnson is well positioned through our combination of scientific expertise, operational scale and financial strength to bring our resources in collaboration with others to accelerate the fight against this pandemic.”
Through their partnership, BARDA, which is part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Johnson & Johnson have committed more than $1 billion of investment to co-fund vaccine research, development and clinical testing. Johnson & Johnson will use its validated vaccine platform and is allocating resources as needed, including personnel and infrastructure globally, to focus on these efforts. BARDA and Johnson & Johnson have also separately provided additional funding that will enable the expansion of their ongoing work to identify potential antiviral treatments against SARS-CoV-2.
Johnson & Johnson is also expanding their global manufacturing capacity, including through the establishment of new U.S. vaccine manufacturing capabilities and scaling up capacity in other countries. The additional capacity will assist in the rapid production of a vaccine, and will reportedly enable the supply of more than one billion doses of a safe and effective vaccine. The company says that it is committed to bringing an affordable vaccine to the public on a not-for-profit basis for emergency pandemic use.
Johnson & Johnson began efforts to research potential vaccine candidates in January 2020, when the COVID-19 sequence became available. Research teams at Janssen, in collaboration with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, part of Harvard Medical School, constructed and tested multiple vaccine candidates using Janssen’s AdVac technology. Through collaborations with scientists at multiple academic institutions, the vaccine constructs were then tested to identify those with the most promise in producing an immune response in preclinical testing.
“We greatly value the U.S. government’s confidence and support for our R&D efforts. Johnson & Johnson’s global team of experts has ramped up our research and development processes to unprecedented levels, and our teams are working tirelessly alongside BARDA, scientific partners, and global health authorities. We are very pleased to have identified a lead vaccine candidate from the constructs we have been working on since January,” stated Paul Stoffels, M.D., vice chairman of the Executive Committee and chief scientific officer of Johnson & Johnson.