- The first coronavirus vaccine could begin human testing by September of this year.
- Projections pegged late 2021 as the earliest we could realistically expect to see a vaccine, but Johnson & Johnson expects its coronavirus vaccine to be available in emergencies by early next year.
- This is an accelerated timeline for the development of a vaccine, but the novel coronavirus pandemic has put us in a position where we cannot afford to wait years for an antidote.
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Ever since the novel coronavirus outbreak in China morphed into a global pandemic, people have been asking when their lives are going to go back to normal. Sadly, not a single medical expert or epidemiologist can give us a definitive answer to that question, but until a vast majority of the population has either been infected and developed immunity to the virus or received a vaccine to prevent them from getting it in the first place, the disruption of our daily lives is going to continue. But the vaccine might be much closer than we initially expected.
In an alarming study released to the public earlier this month, the Imperial College COVID-19 response team asserted that a vaccine could be at least 18 months away, but on Monday, Johnson & Johnson announced that it had chosen a lead vaccine candidate that it expects to begin testing on humans by September.
Johnson & Johnson, after partnering with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), has committed more than $1 billion of investment to co-fund the research, development, and testing of a coronavirus vaccine. As part of this commitment, Johnson & Johnson will scale up its manufacturing capacity in the US and other countries in order to enable the supply of more than 1 billion doses of the vaccine when it is ready.
Here’s what Johnson & Johnson Chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky had to say about the 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. As the world’s largest healthcare company, we feel a deep responsibility to improve the health of people around the world every day. Johnson & Johnson is well positioned through our combination of scientific expertise, operational scale and financial strength to bring our resources in collaboration with others to accelerate the fight against this pandemic.
According to a press release, Johnson & Johnson began researching vaccine candidates in January, as soon as the COVID-19 sequence became available. Multiple constructs were tested, but a lead candidate was eventually chosen, along with two back-ups. A Phase 1 clinical study of the novel coronavirus vaccine should begin by September 2020, with data regarding safety and efficacy available by the end of the year. If all goes accordingly, the vaccine could be available “for emergency use” in early 2021. This is a significantly accelerated timeline for a vaccine.