Johnson & Johnson (A DiversityInc Hall of Fame Company) announced it has a lead candidate for a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the pandemic sweeping the world and killing thousands.
“The world is facing an urgent public health crisis and we are committed to doing our part to make a COVID-19 vaccine available and affordable globally as quickly as possible. As the world’s largest healthcare company, we feel a deep responsibility to improve the health of people around the world every day. Johnson & Johnson is well positioned through our combination of scientific expertise, operational scale and financial strength to bring our resources in collaboration with others to accelerate the fight against this pandemic,” Johnson & Johnson Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alex Gorsky said in a statement.
The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in collaboration Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, part of Harvard Medical School, have been working on the vaccine since January and hope to start human clinical trials in September 2020. The vaccine could potentially be available for emergency use authorization in early 2021.
Between Johnson & Johnson and BARDA, $1 billion was committed to the research and development of this vaccine to make one billion doses available for people worldwide.
It can’t come soon enough. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of March 30, there are 140,904 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. alone. 2,405 deaths have been reported. The virus is now in all 50 states and the U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico and Guam.
“Johnson & Johnson’s global team of experts has ramped up our research and development processes to unprecedented levels, and our teams are working tirelessly alongside BARDA, scientific partners, and global health authorities. We are very pleased to have identified a lead vaccine candidate from the constructs we have been working on since January. We are moving on an accelerated timeline toward Phase 1 human clinical trials,” Johnson & Johnson Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels, M.D., said.
Johnson & Johnson has a long history of diversity and inclusion along with work in healthcare.
At the 2018 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity event on May 1 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City, Gorsky received DiversityInc’s Inaugural Global Inclusive Leaders Award.
“Without the 130,000-plus employees at Johnson & Johnson around the world, who are doing their job trying to help people live longer, healthier lives, this wouldn’t be possible,” Gorsky said while receiving the award. “Until you make [diversity and inclusion] something that is alive and in your heart, it just doesn’t happen.”