Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday that it is working with the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), an agency within the Department of Health & Human Services, to speed up the development of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, which is also known as 2019-nCoV and is now being referred to as COVID-19. The company said the partnership builds on its previously announced "multi-pronged" response to the outbreak, including developing a vaccine candidate against the strain and collaborating with others to screen antiviral compounds with potential to fight the infection.
Under the latest agreement, Johnson & Johnson and BARDA will both contribute R&D costs and mobilise resources to advance initial stages of the company's COVID-19 vaccine development programme. Johnson & Johnson noted that the programme leverages its AdVac and PER.C6 technologies, which were used in developing and manufacturing its Ebola vaccine, as well as its Zika, respiratory syncytial virus and HIV vaccine candidates.
Specifically, BARDA will provide funding to support accelerated development of a vaccine candidate into Phase I testing, with options for additional funding to advance a promising candidate. In the meantime, Johnson & Johnson said it will work to "upscale the production and manufacturing capacities required to meet public health needs."
Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson, stated that the BARDA tie-up "will ensure that vital research is made possible at rapid speed." He added "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."
Meanwhile, Moderna is also working on an mRNA vaccine against the new strain, with US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci indicating last week that there have so far been "no glitches" in the development process, and that clinical testing on the candidate could begin within 2.5 months. Drugmakers working on initiatives in response to the outbreak also include Gilead Sciences and GlaxoSmithKline, among others. For related analysis, see ViewPoints: Gilead gains amidst pandemic pandemonium.
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