“Johnson & Johnson recent lawsuits ordered millions to be paid because of their cancer causing products. J & J have over 100,000 lawsuits currently on the table… Are you ready for their vaccines??”
“The Trump administration is spending nearly half a billion dollars on one company in the race to find a coronavirus vaccine.
That’s according to a $456 million order with Johnson & Johnson’s Pharmaceuticals arm Janssen, which specified a “new vaccine asset for 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19),” Forbes found. It’s the largest reported amount spent on a vaccine project to date, even though the pharma giant hasn’t yet started any clinical trials as other firms have.
The deal was signed with the Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) on March 27, 2020. It followed another order, made as part of the same contract with Janssen, for $150 million on March 20, 2020, for a “new antiviral” for COVID-19.
A spokesperson from Johnson & Johnson didn’t provide any more details on the specific order, but confirmed the $456 million award related to a collaboration with ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), as announced in February. That work was built on previous contracts for developing countermeasures for other influenzas. The value of the coronavirus-specific work hadn’t previously been revealed and is the largest known contract for a coronavirus vaccine to date.
It forms part of a deal between the U.S. government and Johnson & Johnson to co-invest $1 billion into vaccine research, development and clinical testing. The company says it now expects human clinical studies for its vaccine candidate to go ahead, at the latest, by September 2020. It anticipates the first batches of vaccine to be available for emergency use in early 2021.
Earlier this month, Johnson & Johnson also announced a collaboration with the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in developing potential preventive vaccine candidates for COVID-19. The company is looking to use the same technologies it used for developing vaccine candidates for Ebola, Zika and HIV. At the time, the firm announced it hoped to identify a vaccine candidate by the end of the month for clinical trials. A spokesperson confirmed Johnson & Johnson still hoped to announce progress on that before the end of the week.
Elsewhere, BARDA has announced it’s working with another pharma company, Sanofi Pasteur, on a different kind of vaccine. As described by BARDA, Sanofi will create an exact genetic match to proteins of the virus. “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.”
Vaccine trials already happening
Despite those contracts, neither Johnson & Johnson nor Sanofi have actually tested any potential vaccine.
Others have progressed further. In mid-March, the first phase of a clinical trial evaluating an investigational vaccine kicked off at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle, Washington. It was developed by scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) with Massachusetts-based biotech company Moderna.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson—now a COVID-19 patient—announced a record £210 million funding to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which is supporting the development of vaccines to make them globally available and is seeking $2 billion to do so. Elsewhere in the U.K., the University of Oxford announced last week that its researchers had started screening volunteers for an upcoming vaccine trial. Imperial College London has also announced work on a vaccine.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are only two vaccines going through trials: the NIAID-backed treatment and another in China from CanSino Biological and the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology.
Despite the global rush to get a vaccine out as soon as possible, it’s highly unlikely anything will be made available this year. Though it’ll be rolled out much faster than a typical preventative medicine, Dr. Richard Hatchett, CEO at CEPI, has previously said it’ll take somewhere between a year and 18 months before the world has access to a coronavirus vaccine.”