The Trump administration has made another move in the race to combat and stop the viral outbreak of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, around the globe. The Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) recently signed a deal for a $456 million order with Johnson & Johnson’s Pharmaceuticals arm Janssen. The order has been specified as a “new vaccine asset for 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).” It is the largest amount spent on a vaccine project to date by the administration.
A spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson didn’t provide any more details on the specific order. The deal was in an announcement from ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in February.
This moves the partnership forward between the U.S. government and Johnson & Johnson to co-invest $1 billion into COVID-19 vaccine research and clinical testing. Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals hasn’t yet started any clinical trials for a vaccine but expects human clinical studies for its vaccine candidate to go ahead, at the latest, by September 2020. The company predicts the first round of vaccines to be available for emergency use in early 2021.
Johnson & Johnson also unveiled a new collaboration with the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in developing potential preventive vaccine candidates for COVID-19 earlier this month. A company spokesperson confirmed Johnson & Johnson still hopes to announce progress on the partnership very soon.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are only two active cases of vaccines going through trials —an NIAID-backed treatment with two others 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 is highly unlikely anything will be made available to market within the year. Healthcare professionals such as Dr. Richard Hatchett, CEO at CEPI, have stated it’ll take somewhere between a year and 18 months before the world has access to a coronavirus vaccine.