Johnson & Johnson to 'produce huge quantity of coronavirus vaccines'
Johnson & Johnson -- the US-based company -- said that it will begin human testing of its experimental coronavirus vaccine by September.
Johnson & Johnson has announced a $1 billion deal with the US government to create enough manufacturing capacity to make more than 1 billion doses of a vaccine to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus which has so far killed over 35,000 people across the globe and infected over 745,000 globally in just a few months. After the announcement J&J shares closed up 8% at $133.01.
Johnson & Johnson has chosen a candidate but will not begin testing it in people until September.
The US government has also cut a deal with Moderna Inc and said it is in talks with at least two other companies to prepare them to produce massive quantities of coronavirus vaccines even before safe and effective ones become available. There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines specifically for COVID-19, which is a respiratory disease.
No vaccine is expected to be ready for use until at least 2021, as they must still be widely tested in humans before being administered to hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people to prevent infection.
Moderna, which this month began very early tests of its vaccine candidate in people, also signed a deal with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
The arrangements are part of the federal government’s effort to encourage drugmakers to be able to produce massive amounts of COVID-19 vaccines even before any are proven to work.
The J&J effort will be funded in part by about $420 million from BARDA. The agency also plans to spend an unnamed amount to ramp up manufacturing for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Moderna shares rose 1.4% to $30.48.
BARDA ultimately plans to support five or six experimental vaccine candidates, with the hopes of having two or three successful ones, BARDA director Rick Bright said.
Experts have estimated it could be 12 to 18 months before a safe and effective vaccine wins regulatory approval.
A LOT OF RISK INVOLVED
There are dozens of coronavirus vaccines in development, according to the World Health Organization. But it is still not clear that people develop lasting immunity to this virus, or what it will take for a vaccine to be protective.
J&J said it will begin human testing in September, with an eye towards having a vaccine ready under an emergency use authorization in early 2021.
J&J Chief Scientific Officer Dr Paul Stoffels said the company had to start ramping up manufacturing capacity now, even before it has a signal that its experimental vaccine candidate works.
“That is the only option for us to get it on time,” Stoffels said of the early 2021 target. J&J hopes to have data proving its vaccine works by the end of this year.
J&J has a manufacturing plant in the Netherlands that can make up to 300 million doses of vaccine, Stoffels said, but that “absolutely will not be sufficient for the world.”
The company is also scouting for manufacturing plants in other parts of Europe and Asia capable of making the type of vaccine the company is working on.
Stoffels said J&J’s vaccine will be based on the same technology used to make its Ebola vaccine, which has been widely used in people. The company believes it will prove safe.