U.S. Inks Coronavirus Vaccine Contract With Johnson & Johnson

The United States Secures $450 Million Coronavirus Vaccine Contract With Johnson & Johnson; First Batch Of Vaccines To Be Available Early 2021

The Trump administration is spending $456 million in the race to find a Coronavirus vaccine.

According to Forbes, the Trump Administration ordered a “new vaccine asset for 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)” from Johnson & Johnson’s Pharmaceuticals arm Janssen. The contract is the highest reported amount spent on a vaccine project to date, even though the pharmaceutical company has yet to begin any clinical trials, as opposed to other firms who have.

On March 27th, 2020, the deal was inked with the Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) after an additional order, made as part of the massive deal with Janssen, for $150 million on March 20th, 2020, for a “new antiviral” for COVID-19.

While a spokesperson from Johnson & Johnson would not provide additional details on the specific order, they did confirm the $456 million award related to a collaboration with ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). That work was based on previous contracts for producing countermeasures for other influenzas.

The deal between the United States and Johnson & Johnson will co-invest $1 billion into vaccine research, development, and clinical testing. Johnson & Johnson says it now expects human clinical studies for its vaccine candidate to go ahead, at the latest, by September of this year. The first batches of vaccine are anticipated to be available for emergency use in early 2021.

In addition, Johnson & Johnson also announced a collaboration with the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in developing potential preventive vaccine candidates for COVID-19. The company will utilize the same technologies that are used to develop vaccine candidates for Ebola, Zika, and HIV. The firm hoped to identify a vaccine candidate by the end of the month for clinical trials. Johnson & Johnson is also hoping to announce progress on the vaccine before the end of the week, a spokesperson revealed.

In the meantime, BARDA is working independently with another pharma company, Sanofi Pasteur, on a different type of Coronavirus vaccine. Sanofi will create an exact genetic match to proteins of the virus, as described by BARDA.

“The protein’s DNA will be combined with DNA from a virus harmless to humans and used to rapidly produce large quantities of antigen, which stimulate the immune system to protect against the virus.”

Despite the contracts, neither Johnson & Johnson nor Sanofi have tested any potential vaccine.

Vaccine research is taking place in several realms, with others progressing much further. In mid-March, the first phase of a clinical trial began at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle, Washington, evaluating an investigational vaccine. According to Forbes, the trial was developed by scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) with Massachusetts-based biotech company, Moderna.

In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson, now fighting COVID-19 himself, announced a record £210 million funding to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which is expected to support the $2 billion development of vaccines to make them globally available.

But, despite the global rush to get a vaccine out as soon as possible, it is unlikely that anything will be made available this year. Dr. Richard Hatchett, CEO at CEPI, previously claimed it’ll take anywhere between one year and 18 months before the world has access to a coronavirus vaccine.

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