Johnson & Johnson Sees Solid Results From COVID-19 Vaccine Trial; Launches Human Study in U.S. and Europe

Johnson & Johnson said it hopes to supply more than a billion doses of its leading coronavirus vaccine candidate next year, if it is approved by regulators, following solid results from non-human trials in the United States.

Johnson & Johnson  (JNJ) - Get Report said Thursday that its developing coronavirus vaccine showed solid results in early single-dose trials, and launched a study using human patients in the U.S. and Belgium.

The U.S. government-backed study, published in Nature magazine, showed that all monkeys exposed to the virus candidate were protected against infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The dose also elicited a "robust immune response", with neutralizing antibodies, in the non-human patients, Johnson & Johnson said.  

"We are excited to see these pre-clinical data because they show our SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate generated a strong antibody response and provided protection with a single dose," said Dr. Paul Stoffels, Johnson & Johnson's chief scientific officer. "The findings give us confidence as we progress our vaccine development and upscale manufacturing in parallel, having initiated a Phase 1/2a trial in July with the intention to move into a Phase 3 trial in September."

Johnson & Johnson shares were marked 0.25% higher in early trading following the release of the study details to change hands at  $146.95 each, a move that would bump the stock into positive territory for the year. 

The company said it will also conduct a parallel study to its single-dose human trials with one focusing on double-doses, and reiterated its aim of producing and supplying more than one billion doses of the vaccine -- should it be approved by regulators -- through the course of 2021.

"As we collectively battle this pandemic, we remain deeply committed to our goal of providing a safe and effective vaccine to the world," said Dr. Mathai Mammen, who heads Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Research & Development LLC. "Our pre-clinical results give us reason to be optimistic as we initiate our first-in-human clinical trial, and we are excited to enter the next stage in our research and development toward a COVID-19 vaccine."

"We know that, if successful, this vaccine can be rapidly developed, produced on a large scale and delivered around the world,' he added.