J&J plans to cooperate with public organizations on therapies to combat the disease, it said in a statement.
“Identifying compounds with antiviral activity against 2019-nCoV [the coronavirus] may contribute to providing immediate relief to the current outbreak,” the statement read.
The number of infected people in China has jumped to nearly 6,000, and 132 people there have died, China’s National Health Commission said Wednesday.
The infected-case number surpassed the 5,327 total in China from the SARS outbreak in 2003, Bloomberg reports.
J&J said it was “collaborating with regulators, healthcare organizations, institutions and communities worldwide” to fight the epidemic, Paul Stoffels, the New Brunswick, N.J., company’s chief scientific officer, said in J&J’s statement.
The Janssen division will work on the vaccine. The program will use the same technologies deployed in creating Janssen’s Ebola vaccine, which is now being used in Africa. They were also utilized to make Zika, RSV and HIV vaccines.
“At the moment we think we can make a vaccine and bring it to humans in the next eight to 12 months,” Stoffels told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It might be faster. We have to get to the point we know where it works in animals first.” The research effort began two weeks ago with about 15 people, he said.
Stoffels told CNBC that J&J scientists will work on at least five different constructs.
At last check, J&J shares traded little changed at $149.59.
The author owns shares of Johnson & Johnson.