J&J allies with BARDA to accelerate coronavirus vaccine program

Johnson & Johnson has teamed up with the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to develop a vaccine against coronavirus. J&J is pooling money and resources with BARDA in an attempt to accelerate the progress of a vaccine candidate into phase 1 development.

Late last month J&J joined the list of biopharma companies working to stop the coronavirus now radiating out from Wuhan, China. Reflecting its broad capabilities, J&J sketched out a multipronged approach against the virus that positioned it to provide antivirals for use in China while applying its AdVac and PER.C6 technologies to the development of a vaccine.

Now, J&J has expanded its alliance with BARDA, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to boost the vaccine development program. J&J’s Janssen unit and BARDA will co-fund R&D on the vaccine and both make their resources available for the project.

The agreement covers funding to cut the time it takes for the vaccine to reach phase 1. More money may be forthcoming to support development of the vaccine once it is in the clinic. At that stage, J&J may also enlist the support of other partners to expand access to the vaccine. 

“We are also in discussions with other partners, that if we have a vaccine candidate with potential, we aim to make it accessible to China and other parts of the world,” Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer at J&J, said in a statement.

While the involvement of BARDA may accelerate the program, the basic scope of the project remains unchanged. The focus is still on leveraging J&J’s PER.C6 manufacturing system and AdVac adenovirus vector development and production system to quickly create a vaccine capable of protecting people from the coronavirus, now known officially as COVID-19.

J&J has embarked on similar vaccine development programs in the recent past. An Ebola vaccine developed using AdVac and PER.C6 is being tested in Africa, and J&J has also applied the technologies to the creation of prophylactics against Zika, HIV and respiratory syncytial virus.