A COVID-19 vaccine could be available for emergency use in early 2021, according to Johnson & Johnson (J&J).
The global healthcare company has selected a lead vaccine candidate from constructs it has been working on since January 2020 and expects to initiate human clinical studies by September 2020 at the latest. J&J’s manufacturing capacity has been rapidly scaled up, with the goal of supplying more than one billion doses of a safe and effective vaccine globally. The company is also expanding its ongoing work to identify potential antiviral treatments against the novel coronavirus.
J&J says it is committed to bringing an affordable vaccine to the public on a not-forprofit basis for emergency pandemic use.
“As the world’s largest healthcare company, we feel a deep responsibility to improve the health of people around the world every day. J&J 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,” said Alex Gorsky, J&J Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
J&J began efforts in January 2020, as soon as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) sequence became available, to research potential vaccine candidates. Research teams at Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, in collaboration with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre, part of Harvard Medical School, constructed and tested multiple vaccine candidates using the Janssen 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.
VACCINE FAST TRACKED
Based on this work, J&J has identified a lead COVID-19 vaccine candidate (with two back-ups), which will progress into the first manufacturing steps. Under an accelerated timeline, the company is aiming to initiate a Phase 1 clinical study in September 2020, with clinical data on safety and efficacy expected to be available by the end of the year. This could allow vaccine availability for emergency use in early 2021. For comparison, the typical vaccine development process involves a number of different research stages, spanning five to seven years, before a candidate is even considered for approval.
The COVID-19 vaccine program leverages Janssen’s proven AdVac and PER.C6 technologies that provide the ability to rapidly develop new vaccine candidates and upscale production of the optimal vaccine candidate. The same technology was used to develop and manufacture the company’s Ebola vaccine and construct its Zika, RSV, and HIV vaccine candidates which are in Phase 2 or Phase 3 clinical development stages.
EXPANDED ANTIVIRAL RESEARCH
In addition to the vaccine development efforts, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services office, BARDA, and J&J have also expanded their partnership and funding to accelerate Janssen’s ongoing work in screening compound libraries, including compounds from other pharmaceutical companies. The company’s aim is to identify potential treatments against the novel coronavirus. These antiviral screening efforts are being conducted in partnership with the Rega Institute for Medical Research (KU Leuven/ University of Leuven), in Belgium.