Johnson & Johnson (J&J) said Monday human testing of its experimental vaccine for the coronavirus will begin by September and it could be available for emergency use authorisation in early 2021.
J&J also said it has committed more than $1.0 billion of investment in partnership with the federal Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, to co-fund vaccine research.
J&J’s lead vaccine candidate will enter a phase 1 human clinical study by September, the company said, and clinical data on its effects is expected before the end of the year. If the vaccine works well, the company said it could be available for emergency use in early 2021.
Shares of J&J rose more than 4.0 per cent in premarket trading.
The company said it is also increasing its manufacturing capacity with a new site in the US and additions to existing sites in other countries to produce and distribute the potential vaccine quickly. J&J said it seeks to produce more than 1.0 billion doses of the potential vaccine.
“We have very good early indicators that not only can we depend on this to be a safe vaccine base but also one that will ultimately be effective based on all the early testing and modelling we’ve been doing,” Chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky said Monday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “This is a bit of a moonshot for J&J going forward, but it’s one we feel is very, very important for use to be doing at this period in time.”
Gorsky added that the company is pursuing the vaccine on a “not-for-profit basis,” but he declined to estimate how much it could cost the consumer.
On top of a lead vaccine candidate, J&J said it has two back-ups. The company said it began working on COVID-19 vaccine development in January.
J&J said the pace at which it expects to develop a vaccine is faster than the typical five to seven years.
Global efforts are underway to develop a vaccine for the virus that has killed over 34,000 worldwide, but experts have cautioned it could take over a year to have one ready. A patient was dosed with Moderna’s vaccine in an early-stage trial earlier this month, making it the front-runner in the race to develop a viable vaccine. According to the World Health Organization, another candidate from China-based CanSino Biological is also in a phase 1 trial.
Without a vaccine, some health authorities are using Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug Remdesivir, which was tested as a possible treatment during the Ebola outbreak. Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert Redfield said earlier this month that the drug is being used in Washington state to treat COVID-19 patients.
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