Johnson & Johnson said Monday human testing of its experimental vaccine for the coronavirus would begin by September and that it could be available for emergency use authorization in early 2021.
J&J also said it has committed more than $1 billion of investment along with U.S. agency Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, to co-fund vaccine research.
J&J’s lead vaccine candidate will enter a phase 1 human clinical study by September 2020, the company said, and clinical data on its effects is expected before the end of the year. If the candidate works well, the company said it could be available for emergency use in early 2021.
Shares of J&J rose more than 4% in premarket trading on Monday.
The company said it is also increasing its manufacturing capacity with a new site in the U.S. and additions to previously existing sites in other countries to produce and distribute the potential vaccine quickly. J&J said it seeks to produce more than one billion doses of the potential vaccine.
“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,” Alex Gorsky, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson, said.
On top of a lead vaccine candidate, J&J said it has two back-ups as well. The company said it began working on COVID-19 vaccine development in January.
J&J said the pace at which it expects to develop a vaccine is faster than the typical five to seven years, according to the company.
Global efforts are underway to develop a vaccine for the virus that has killed over 34,000 worldwide, but experts have cautioned it could take over a year to have a vaccine ready. A patient was dosed with Moderna‘s vaccine in an early-stage trial earlier this month, making it the front-runner in the race to develop a viable vaccine.
Without a vaccine, some health authorities are using Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug Remdesivir, which was tested as a possible treatment during the Ebola outbreak. Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert Redfield said earlier this month that the drug is being used in Washington state to treat COVID-19 patients.
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