The pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has joined forces with US government agency the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to commit $1bn to COVID-19 vaccine research, it was announced on March 30. As part of the agreement, the company aims to provide a global supply of more than one billion doses of the vaccine.
Johnson & Johnson has produced a lead vaccine candidate, as well as two potential backups, since it began researching for a COVID-19 vaccine in January. The company has given itself a very short window in which to develop these: it hopes to hold clinical trials by September 2020 at the latest, and has said the vaccine could be available for emergency use in early 2021.
Johnson & Johnson hopes to hold clinical trials by September 2020 at the latest, and has said the vaccine could be available for emergency use in early 2021
To meet this fast-approaching deadline, Johnson & Johnson is expanding its global capacity both in the US and overseas. It plans to open a new vaccine manufacturing plant in the US, and the company has said it will harness “personnel and infrastructure” to bring an affordable vaccine to the public.
The agreement represents a significant expansion of the partnership between Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical division, Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, and BARDA, an office of the US Department of Health and Human Services. In addition to the work being done to develop a vaccine, the partnership encompasses research and development of possible antiviral treatments for COVID-19.
Johnson & Johnson is one of about 35 pharmaceutical groups and academic institutions mobilising to create a vaccine for the coronavirus. Currently, Pfizer and Sanofi are advancing candidates for a vaccine, while a University of Oxford group aims to start human trials in April. The number of groups working on a solution could mean that multiple vaccines are available next year. However, before they can be distributed globally, much depends on whether the first batch of candidates can pass the rigorous tests set by regulators.