Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutical Co. will expedite an investigational coronavirus vaccine program in collaboration with Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.
In addition to Janssen’s efforts to develop a vaccine, Johnson & Johnson is working with global partners to screen its library of anti-viral molecules to seek relief for people in China and elsewhere from the new coronavirus, COVID-19. The strain belongs to a group of viruses that attack the respiratory system.
The death toll of the coronavirus in China has reportedly surpassed 1,000 to date. United States Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency for the entire country on Jan. 31. As of Feb. 10, there were 13 confirmed cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is currently no approved vaccine, treatment or cure for COVID-19.
“Developing an effective vaccine will be critical if we are to protect people against the novel coronavirus and combat future outbreaks,” said Chief Scientific Officer and Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee Dr. Paul Stoffels in a statement. “This partnership will ensure that vital research is made possible at rapid speed and underscores the importance of public-private partnerships to tackle the worldwide novel coronavirus epidemic. We are also in discussions with other partners, that if we have a vaccine candidate with potential, we aim to make it accessible to China and other parts of the world.”
Through the agreement, created under an existing government authority, both Janssen and BARDA will use their resources and contribute to the research and development costs to advance Janssen’s COVID-19 vaccine development program.
While BARDA will provide funding to support accelerated development of a potential coronavirus vaccine into clinical studies, Janssen will focus on increasing production and manufacturing capacities necessary to meet public health demand. Janssen will partner with multiple stakeholders globally to address this need.
“By leveraging long-standing partnerships and proven technology, we can move rapidly to address emerging health threats like this novel coronavirus,” said BARDA Director Rick Bright. “We are committed to doing everything we can to protect the health of the people in the United States and across the globe.”
The collaboration will leverage Janssen’s AdVac and PER.C6 technologies that provide the ability to rapidly increase production of a vaccine candidate, which are the same technologies used in the development and manufacturing of Janssen’s investigational Ebola vaccine currently being deployed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. The technologies were also used to create Johnson & Johnson’s Zika, RSV and HIV vaccine candidates.