Together, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Johnson & Johnson “have committed more than $1 billion of investment to co-fund vaccine research, development, and clinical testing,” a press release says.
The shared goal is to produce a global supply of over 1 billion doses of the vaccine, and for human testing to begin by September. The vaccine could be available for emergency use in early 2021, CNBC reports.
“We have very good early indicators that not only can we depend on this to be a safe vaccine base but also one that will ultimately be effective based on all the early testing and modelling we’ve been doing,” Johnson & Johnson chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky told CNBC. “This is a bit of a moonshot for J&J going forward, but it’s one we feel is very, very important for use to be doing at this period in time.”
Gorsky also mentioned that the company is developing the vaccine on a “not-for-profit basis” but didn’t share an estimate on how much the consumer would have to pay for it. In addition to the lead vaccine candidate, J&J has been working on two alternatives since January, and is on track to create a vaccine quicker than the five-to-seven years it normally takes.
Other companies have been pursuing a vaccine as well. Moderna has become the leader in the race, having already begun human trials this month. China-based CanSino Biological is also in the first phase of trials, and the French company Sanofi has expanded testing of its vaccine.
Since there is no vaccine, health workers are currently using an antiviral drug called Remdesivir on patients, which was proved to be a potential treatment during the Ebola outbreak. According to the CDC, the drug is being used on COVID-19 patients in Washington state.