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Johnson & Johnson partners with BARDA to fund $1 billion in COVID-19 vaccine research

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TECHCRUNCH 31 MAR 2020

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson is partnering with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to fund over $1 billion in COVID-19 vaccine and antiviral treatment research and development, the company said on Monday.

The partnership is an expansion of an existing agreement between BARDA and J&J’s Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies division.

With the agreement, the company is setting a goal of providing a global supply of more than one billion doses of the vaccine, which J&J expects to have in clinical trials by September 2020 at the latest. The first batches of the vaccine may be available for emergency use by early 2021, the company said.

BARDA’s partnership with J&J encompasses research and development of potential antiviral treatments in addition to the work that’s being done to develop a vaccine for the disease. Those efforts include development work J&J and BARDA are conducting with the Rega Institute for Medical Research in Belgium.

J&J said it had also committed to expanding its global manufacturing capacity, both in the U.S. and overseas.

That additional production ability will help the company bring an affordable vaccine to the public on a not-for-profit basis for emergency pandemic use, the company said.

Working with teams at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a part of the Harvard Medical School, Janssen Pharmaceuticals began its research into potential vaccine candidates back in January. Those candidates were tested at several academic institutions, the company said, which led to the identification of a lead COVID-19 vaccine candidate — and two potential back-ups.

Last week, Moderna Health, another pharmaceutical company working on a vaccine, said that it could have an experimental treatment available to healthcare workers as soon as the fall.

The Moderna vaccine uses messenger RNA, rather than doses of the COVID-19 virus itself, to inoculate against the disease. The use of mRNA means that the inoculation doesn’t expose recipients to the disease itself, so they’re not at risk of contracting the disease.

Last Monday, Moderna made the vaccine available to volunteer participants as part of the company’s Phase 1 clinical trials conducted in Washington state.

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