Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has recently signed a massive contract with the U.S. government in order to tackle COVID-19, according to Forbes. The $456 million J&J COVID contract went to the corporation’s pharmaceuticals company, Janssen, and promised a “new vaccine asset for 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).” The J&J COVID contract is the largest monetary amount spent on a vaccine project in history, despite not yet having a product in production.
The J&J COVID contract sealed a partnership with the U.S. Health and Human Services Office under the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). The March 27 deal is a follow-up to another contract signed with Janssen of $150 million for a “new antiviral” drug to combat COVID-19. A spokesperson from J&J couldn’t provide any specific details about the matter but did say that the contract would be related to a collaboration with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) wing of the ASPR.
This collaboration, combined with the J&J COVID contract, makes up a portion of a $1 billion deal that the U.S. government and J&J have entered to further vaccine research, development and clinical testing. J&J released a statement following the latest developments of this deal, stating that it now expects human clinical studies for its vaccine candidate to begin no later than September 2020. J&J also announced expectations for the first batches of the COVID-19 vaccine to be available for emergency use in early 2021.
Despite the high hopes of J&J, it should be noted that as of the time of its signing, the J&J COVID contract does not apply to any medicine that has been created. Other companies, such as the Massachusetts-based biotech company Moderna, have begun a clinical trial evaluating a potential vaccine that they have developed with help from Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research and scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
Another point that consumers should note is that the J&J COVID contract does not mean a vaccine is soon on the horizon. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are only two vaccines globally that are currently going through trials. One is the NIAID-backed treatment in Seattle, Washington, and the other is being tested in China and was created by CanSino Biological and the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology.
Dr. Richard Hatchett, CEO at CEPI, has previously said a vaccine will likely take 12 to 18 months despite the immediacy being placed on its development.