By Sharon Atieno

As scientists strive to come up with vaccines for the novel coronavirus, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Company have announced the selection of a lead COVID-19 vaccine candidate and the goal of providing more than one billion vaccines globally.

“The world is facing an urgent public health crisis and we are committed to doing our part to make a COVID-19 vaccine available and affordable globally as quickly as possible. As the world’s largest healthcare company, we feel a deep responsibility to improve the health of people around the world every day,” Alex Gorsky, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Johnson & Johnson, said.

“Johnson & Johnson is well positioned through our combination of scientific expertise, operational scale and financial strength to bring our resources in collaboration with others to accelerate the fight against this pandemic.”

Johnson & Johnson began efforts in January 2020, as soon as COVID-19 sequence became available, to research potential vaccine candidates. Based on this work, it has identified a lead COVID-19 vaccine candidate (with two back-ups), which will progress into the first manufacturing steps.

“We are very pleased to have identified a lead vaccine candidate from the constructs we have been working on since January. We are moving on an accelerated timeline toward Phase 1 human clinical trials at the latest by September 2020 and, supported by the global production capability that we are scaling up in parallel to this testing, we expect a vaccine could be ready for emergency use in early 2021,” said Paul Stoffels, M.D., Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer of J&J.

The partnership between Johnson & Johnson Company and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which is part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, have committed more than $1 billion of investment to co-fund vaccine research, development, and clinical testing.

In addition to the vaccine development efforts, they have provided additional funding that will enable expansion of their ongoing work to identify potential antiviral treatments against the novel coronavirus.