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Johnson & Johnson Partners with Government to Produce COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate

March 31, 2020
The New Jersey-based healthcare giant ambitiously aims for an emergency rollout of its strongest vaccine candidate in January 2021.

Johnson & Johnson said March 31 that it had arranged a partnership with an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to continue development on a vaccine to prevent COVID-19. Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, a division of Johnson & Johnson, will work with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, to fund and quickly test what J&J says is their leading candidate for a coronavirus vaccine.

According to Johnson & Johnson, researchers began development of possible vaccines in January, after coronavirus’s genetic sequencing became available to researchers. Janssen’s research was conducted in collaboration with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical at Harvard Medical School, and eventually yielded one lead candidate with a promising immune response and two backup candidates. J&J’s partnership with BARDA will supply the company with half of the $1 billion capital needed to expedite testing and manufacturing of the drug.

Following an “accelerated” timeline, J&J anticipates the vaccine could begin Phase 1 clinical trials as early as September of this year. If those trials are successful, that time frame could allow an emergency deployment of the virus as early as January 2021—a stunning turnaround for a vaccine. Eyes set on that difficult mark, Johnson & Johnson is already beginning to ramp up production of the candidate vaccine with a stated goal of producing more than a billion doses.

Alex Gorsky, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, in a statement, said that he and J&J were “committed to doing our part to make a COVID-19 vaccine available and affordable globally as quickly as possible.” He said “the world’s largest healthcare company” was “well positioned” to help drive the fight against the pandemic.

Dr. Paul Stoffels, Chief Scientific Officer at the company, expressed gratitude for the government’s support. “Our teams are working tirelessly alongside BARDA, scientific partners, and global health authorities,” he said in a statement.

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