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UPDATED: J&J expands US partnership for coronavirus treatments

Expands on exisiting alliance announced last week

J&J

Last week, the US federal government joined forces with Johnson and Johnson to accelerate the development of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.

The deal with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) sees J&J’s Janssen pharma unit and the government agency collaborate on pushing the vaccine through trials as quickly as possible, with BARDA contributing both resources and funding.

The pharma company has now expanded on that agreement with BARDA and the US Department of Health & Human services.

The latest collaboration will enhance Janssen’ ongoing work to screen a library of existing antiviral molecules, with the aim of identifying compounds which show promise against the COVID-19.

As part of the expanded collaboration, Janssen will work with Rega Institute for Medical Research in Belgium,  combining the Institute’s infrastructure with Janssen’s antiviral expertise.

The new coronavirus – which was given the official name COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO) – has now killed almost 1,900 people, with tens of thousands of people infected worldwide.

J&J said the expansion builds on its alliance with BARDA, which is part of a 'multipronged' response to the outbreak which along with the vaccine development also includes screening of antiviral molecules for activity against the coronavirus.

BARDA, which is part of the US Department of Health & Human Services, will help fund the phase 1 trials of the vaccine candidate, with an option to extend that further if the initial studies are positive. Meanwhile, J&J has agreed to ramp up production and manufacturing capacity for the candidate.

Worst-case scenario modelling for COVID-19 – also known as 2019-nCov – suggests it could infect 60% of the world’s population with a 1% fatality rate, and that the numbers being reported in China underestimate the scale of the outbreak because they only include people with symptoms and don’t include those who test positive but are asymptomatic.

Some health leaders are predicting it won’t be anywhere near that bad thanks to quarantine measures and China’s decision to limit people’s movements in the worst affected areas.

The new nomenclature system – which derives from corona, virus, disease and the year it first emerged – will become standard for future outbreaks and is designed to prevent stigma or inaccuracy by avoiding “a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people,” said the WHO.

Other companies – including Moderna, CureVac and Novavas – are also developing vaccines against COVID-19.

Article by
Phil Taylor

12th February 2020

From: Healthcare

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