Johnson & Johnson, the largest health care company in the world, has bumped the start of human trials for its potential coronavirus vaccine by two months to begin in July, according to multiple reports.
The New Jersey-based company previously projected to have such human trials begin in September. The earlier start date should let J&J take part in a massive clinical trials program planned by the U.S. government, which is aimed at producing an effective vaccine by the end of the year.
“Based on the strength of the preclinical data we have seen so far and interactions with the regulatory authorities, we have been able to further accelerate the clinical development of our investigational SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, Ad26.COV2-S, recombinant,” J&J’s Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels said in a statement, according to CNBC.
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The study will start in the second half of July and will test 1,045 healthy volunteers in the U.S. and Belgium. It will involve people 18-55 and over 65, the statement said. The initial study will have a placebo arm to compare results against, with researchers analyzing how safe the vaccine is and if it causes an immune response, Business Insider reported.
J&J is one of several working on a potential vaccine to prevent COVID-19, which has infected more than 7,360,239 people worldwide and killed at least 416,201 as of Thursday morning, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. saw its total coronavirus cases surpass the 2 million mark Wednesday night, amid a recent spike in infections due to various factors. More than a quarter of all worldwide fatalities have occurred in the U.S.
The company signed deals with the U.S. government last March to increase its manufacturing capacity in order to produce more than 1 billion doses of its vaccine through 2021, according to Reuters. Such developments occurred before evidence has been shown the vaccine works.
A vaccine is seen as crucial to ending the coronavirus pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands, severely impacted the world’s economy, and resulted in millions of people unemployed at levels not seen since the Great Depression.
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Stoffels said last week that J&J hopes to have results of its vaccine efficacy trials in the first quarter next year. He added that the company is “working hard to bring it [that date] back to the end of the year,” Reuters reported.
The company started developing a vaccine back in January.
There were at least 126 COVID-19 candidate vaccines in preclinical evaluation, as of Tuesday, according to the World Health Organization, while 10 were currently in clinical evaluation.
Bio-Tech firm Moderna is currently working on a vaccine with the National Institutes of Health and expects to enroll about 30,000 people when it begins a phase three trial in July, according to CNBC.
“We could have a vaccine either by the end of this calendar year or in the first few months of 2021,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” adding it will depend on how well the process goes for identifying a safe and effective candidate.
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“That’s the thing that makes me feel confident that the process is really on track and that’s good news,” Fauci said, “again in the context of never being able to guarantee success, things are clearly going in the right direction.”