J&J Initiates Vaccine Development for Coronavirus in Response to Outbreak

By Emily Forster -

January 30, 2020

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has announced that it is launching a multi-pronged response to the coronavirus (2019-nCoV or Wuhan coronavirus) outbreak, which includes initiating development of a vaccine candidate against 2019-nCoV and broadly collaborating with others to screen a library of antiviral therapies.

J&J said it is collaborating with regulators, healthcare organizations, institutions and communities to share its research platforms, science and outbreak knowledge. The vaccine program will leverage Janssen’s AdVac and PER.C6 technologies that provide the ability to rapidly upscale production of the optimal vaccine candidate. These are the same technologies that were used in the development and manufacturing of Janssen’s investigational Ebola vaccine, which is currently deployed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. They were also used to construct the company’s Zika, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) vaccine candidates.

J&J says its multi-pronged approach includes a review of known pathways in coronavirus pathophysiology to determine whether previously tested medicines can be used to help patients survive a 2019-nCoV infection and reduce the severity of disease in non-lethal cases. In addition, Janssen has donated 300 boxes of its HIV medication, Prezcobix (darunavir/cobicistat), to the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center and Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University for use in research to find a solution against coronavirus. Furthermore, another 50 boxes have been provided to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention for laboratory-based investigations (drug-screening for antiviral properties against 2019-nCoV). All shipments have been delivered and, if further donations are required, J&J says it is open to cooperating with all healthcare institutions and agencies.

The requests from the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center and Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University follow a recommendation from the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences for the investigation of 30 potentially effective compounds, including darunavir, the protease inhibitor component of J&J’s Prezcobix, against 2019-nCoV. Based on anecdotal findings, a protease inhibitor has previously shown a potential favorable clinical response against severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) associated coronavirus.

As of January 29, 2020, the World Health Organization has confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV across mainland China, Australia, Cambodia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, Malaysia, Nepal, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, the US and Vietnam. In the US, the US Food and Drug Administration has outlined its actions to advance the development of coronavirus medical countermeasures while collaborating with interagency partners, product developers, international partners and global regulators. See related story, FDA Issues Update on Its Actions for Coronavirus Medical Countermeasures.

Source: Johnson & Johnson