Johnson & Johnson announced on Tuesday that the company plans to have a coronavirus vaccine ready by 2021.
Vice-Chairman of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels told financial analysts in Johnson & Johnson’s quarterly conference call on Tuesday that a COVID-19 (coronavirus) vaccine candidate in which the company has confidence has been identified and Phase 1 clinical trials are scheduled to begin in early September.
Emergency use authorization of this vaccine candidate could begin in early 2021, Stoffels said:
Johnson & Johnson announced on March 30, that we have identified a lead COVID-19 vaccine candidate, along with two backups. In order for any vaccine to be manufactured to GMP in large quantities, it is necessary to first produce a Master Seed bank, which is then progenitive of all future large scale vaccination batches. All three candidates are now entering pre-Master Seed production. Final selection of start of Master Seed production is expected in June 2020.
As we have already announced, we are expanding our global manufacturing capacity in parallel, including the establishment of a new U.S. vaccine manufacturing capability. We are also in discussions with other potential partners to expand manufacturing capacity in Europe and Asia and look forward to making those announcements in the coming weeks. We plan to begin production at risk imminently and our goal is to enable the supply of more than 1 billion doses of the vaccine globally.
We are on track to start Phase 1 clinical trials in early September in the U.S. and Europe with clinical data on safety and immunogenicity expected to be available by the end of the year. This could allow vaccine availability for emergency use authorization as early as early 2021. We are confident in this vaccine candidate, because we have now seen good data in animal models. While we are moving with extreme speed, we are absolutely committed to making sure that our vaccine follows all guidelines with regard to good manufacturing practices and quality controls. We are not cutting any corners when it comes to safety. We are able to achieve this speed because we are doing several processes in parallel, many at risk rather than in sequence.
The company is gearing up production to make the vaccine available to the general population, pending successful completion of clinical trials, starting in the first quarter of 2021 and ramping up throughout the year.
“Production capacity would be ready to grow at 600 million to 900 million in the first quarter [of 2021], going up to a 1 billion in the course of the year, north of 1 billion by the end of the year. So — and that’s on an annual basis. So we’ll have four manufacturing sites going on one by one, bringing the whole capacity up to 1 billion in the course of the year,” Stoffels added.
CNBC reported Jim Cramer, host of the network’s Mad Money program, said the announcement was a good sign for Johnson & Johnson’s financial performance in the future:
“I came away convinced that they have something compelling up their sleeves. Something that will make you wish you owned a travel and leisure stock,” the “Mad Money” host said. . .
Health officials, business executives and investors alike have said that developing a vaccine is one of the most important steps to solve the virus. Currently, 70 candidate vaccines are under development across the world, and experts say the soonest that one could be available for distribution would be between 12 and 18 months.
“This virus is not invincible, people, and when we do beat it, you’ll wish you owned some stocks, especially the ones that are currently toxic to your portfolio,” Cramer said.
Dozens of companies have said they are working on COVID-19 vaccines that may be available for use by the general population within 12 to 18 months.
Most medical experts say that the country’s economy will not be able to return to “normal” economic activity until a safe COVID-19 vaccine is available for use by the general population.