Johnson & Johnson says it's identified a 'lead candidate' for COVID-19 vaccine

Posted at 7:50 AM, Mar 30, 2020

Johnson & Johnson said Monday that it had identified a "lead candidate" for a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson is one of the several companies and federal agencies racing to develop a vaccine to the coronavirus, which continues to spread rapidly around the world. Earlier this month, Moderna began testing a potential COVID-19 vaccine in humans in Seattle.

According to Johnson & Johnson, the studies are taking place with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), an office under the direction of the Department of Health and Human Services. The company has been working since January to find a lead candidate for a potential vaccine.

Now that Johnson & Johnson have identified a lead candidate and two backups, the company will move into the first phase of production on an accelerated timeline. The company hopes to hold Phase 1 of clinical trials in September, with the hope of deploying the vaccine in emergency situations by early 2021.

"We want to first of all make sure they are safe, that the platform is safe, that it can be effective," Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky said during an interview on NBC's Today show Monday morning. "We anticipate starting in humans in September. We could have something called interim results where we use statistical methodology to look and see do we have a high degree of success."

According to Johnson & Johnson, it would take a typical vaccine five to seven years to reach this point in the approval process.

Most health officials say that even on an accelerated timeline, the fall of 2021 is the earliest that a vaccine for COVID-19 will be widely available.