US pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has teamed up with a government office to commit more than US$1 billion (AUD$1.62 billion) for research, development and clinical testing of a Covid-19 vaccine candidate.
The company announced yesterday its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies was expanding a partnership with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), with a goal to start the first human clinical studies for the vaccine by September at the latest.
The lead vaccine candidate has been chosen from constructs J&J has been working on since January.
The company expects the first batches of a Covid-19 vaccine could be available for emergency use authorisation in early 2021, and is scaling up manufacturing capacity in a bid to supply more than one billion doses of a vaccine.
BARDA is part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the US Department of Health and Human Services.
"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," says J&J chairman and chief executive officer Alex Gorsky.
"As the world's largest healthcare company, we feel a deep responsibility to improve the health of people around the world every day. 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."
J&J's chief scientific officer Paul Stoffels says the company greatly values the US government's confidence and support for our R&D efforts.
"Johnson & Johnson's global team of experts has ramped up our research and development processes to unprecedented levels, and our teams are working tirelessly alongside BARDA, scientific partners, and global health authorities," says Stoffels.
"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."
The partners are also accelerating their push to find potential anti-viral treatments against the novel coronavirus, through ongoing work in screening compound libraries, including compounds from other pharmaceutical companies.
These antiviral screening efforts are being conducted in partnership with the Rega Institute for Medical Research (KU Leuven/University of Leuven), in Belgium.
Updated at 4:11pm AEDT on 31 March 2020.
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