J&J, U.S. government plan 1 billion doses of coronavirus vaccine


By Julie Steenhuysen

(Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson <JNJ.N> said on Monday that it and the U.S. government will invest $1 billion to create enough manufacturing capacity to make more than 1 billion doses of a vaccine it is testing to stop the new coronavirus that has killed more than 35,000 people around the world.

As part of the arrangement, the U.S. government will pay $421 million to support the company's efforts to build new manufacturing capacity in the United States.

J&J said it had selected its own lead vaccine candidate and would start human testing by September, with an eye on having it ready under an emergency use authorization in early 2021, far quicker than the typical 18 month period that it takes for vaccines to be tested, approved and then manufactured.

J&J Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Paul Stoffels told Reuters the company had to start ramping up manufacturing capacity now, even before it has a signal that its experimental vaccine candidate works. The company will start making the vaccine at risk, without knowing for sure that it works.

"That is the only option for us to get it on time," Stoffels said in a phone interview.

The company has a manufacturing plant in the Netherlands that can make up to 300 million doses of vaccine, Stoffels said, adding that "absolutely will not be sufficient for the world."

He said J&J is starting to build a plant in the United States now so it can be ready to manufacture vaccines by the end of the year, when data from its clinical trials will show whether the vaccine works.

Nearly half of the $1 billion will come from the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which is looking to expand on J&J's previous collaboration with the agency.

Stoffels said the company is also scouting for manufacturing plants in other parts of Europe and Asia that are capable of making the type of vaccine the company is working on.

So far, J&J has not given any doses of its vaccine to humans. But Stoffels said the coronavirus vaccine will be based on the same technology used to make its Ebola vaccine, which has been widely used in people, and the company believes it will prove safe.

Safety testing of vaccines is even more important than for treatments as they are given to healthy people to prevent infection. That could be 1 billion people or more around the world.

In lab studies, the vaccine candidate has produced strong neutralizing antibodies to the virus - the type needed to make a successful vaccine.

J&J will continue testing the vaccine in animal studies this summer and plans to start human trials in September.

The new coronavirus, which began in Wuhan, China, has infected people in most countries around the world. The United States, with over 143,00 confirmed case of COVID-19 - the illness caused by the virus - has the most cases globally.

Moderna Inc <MRNA.O> this month began initial testing of it's experimental coronavirus vaccine in healthy volunteers, making it the early front-runner in the race to develop a viable vaccine.

(This story corrects to say "$421 million" in second paragraph)

(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru and Caroline Humer in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Bill Berkrot)


More Related News

Coronavirus began spreading in the US in January - predating President Trump
Coronavirus began spreading in the US in January - predating President Trump's travel restrictions and the detection of community transmission, CDC says

CDC Director Robert Redfield said that the virus first circulated at low levels in the US so diagnostic tests would've missed it.

Trump cuts WHO funding as US economy clouds speedy recovery
Trump cuts WHO funding as US economy clouds speedy recovery

Grim employment and spending numbers darkened the prospects for a speedy recovery in the U.S. as the economic devastation from the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, even as states moved to reopen more sectors. President Donald Trump meanwhile announced that the United States will end its support for the World Health Organization, charging it didn't respond adequately to the pandemic because of China's "total control" over the U.N. agency. Trump said Chinese officials "ignored" their reporting obligations to the WHO and pressured the agency to mislead the world when the virus was first discovered.

Coronavirus infection rate may shift toward younger ages; death risk higher in cancer patients
Coronavirus infection rate may shift toward younger ages; death risk higher in cancer patients
  • US
  • 2020-05-29 19:46:57Z

As the coronavirus infection rate in Washington State passed its peak, cases in people over age 60 fell 10%, while infections among younger age groups rose steadily, researchers say. "The fact that young people do not usually get as sick as older people and people with comorbidities is a double edged sword," co-author Dr. Henry Kaplan of the Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle told Reuters. Cancer patients who contract COVID-19 are at increased risk of dying within a month, new research shows, and treatment with a combination of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin may contribute to that added risk.

Denmark and Norway cut coronavirus-hit Sweden out of free travel deal
Denmark and Norway cut coronavirus-hit Sweden out of free travel deal

The governments of Denmark and Norway have cut Sweden out of a deal allowing each other's tourists to travel freely between the two countries - citing their Nordic neighbour's higher levels of coronavirus infection. The deal, announced at parallel press conferences in Oslo and Copenhagen on Friday afternoon, showed Sweden has failed in its diplomatic efforts to be included in the first stage of a Nordic travel bubble. Under the deal, people from Denmark will from June 15 be allowed to enter Norway without needing to quarantine, while tourists from Norway will be able to enter Denmark, so long as they have booked accommodation for at least six days. As she announced the agreement,...

J&J's Ebola vaccine wins EU regulatory panel backing
  • US
  • 2020-05-29 12:37:07Z

J&J submitted its application to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in November for the vaccine, which targets an Ebola strain that causes the disease in most people. The company in February said it was developing a coronavirus vaccine program with the help of the same technologies used in the experimental Ebola vaccine. The panel recommendation confirms the potential of the vaccine technology, Johan Van Hoof, managing director of J&J's Janssen unit said.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: Economy