Johnson & Johnson has joined the ranks of scientists, governments, universities and companies working on a coronavirus – and i’ts ‘pretty confident’ it can create one, it’s chief scientists said Monday.
Dr Paul Stoffels said in a CNBC Squawk Box interview that J&J had begun work on a vaccine two weeks ago, but admitted it would likely take up to a year to develop it and have it ready to market.
Many entities are now racing to find a way to innoculate humans against the new coronavirus that emerged in China in December and has since spread to nearly 3,000 worldwide, including five in the US.
Another 110 patients are currently being tested for coronavirus in the US, which Monday elevated its travel warning to advise against necessary travel to China, the State Department announced, in an effort to slow the virus’s spread.
This virus has thus far proven less deadly but capable of more rapid transmission than its cousin, SARS, kindling urgent searches for treatments and vaccines.
‘We have dozens of scientists working on this so we’re pretty confident we can get something made that will work and stay active for the longer term,’ said Dr Stoffels.
Scientists at Johnson & Johnson have joined the race to make a coronavirus, alongside researchers at Moderna and in Australia (pictured). J&J says it’s ‘pretty confident’ it can make the shot – but it could take a year to bring to market
While scientists work on a vaccine, coronavirus continues to spread around the world, with 82 dead in China and cases in at least 13 other countries
‘We’ll see in the next few weeks how this goes.’
Several other private companies, including the Inovio, Novavax and Moderna – the latter of which is working with the US government – are working on a vaccine as well.
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations (CEPI) has promised to give $11 million to the three companies, collectively
CEPI is also helping fund efforts at the University of Queensland in Australia.
Meanwhile, scientists at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas are working with Moderna, using a prototype vaccine that they designed to treat the SARS – severe acute respiratory syndrome – that threw the world into a short-lived panic when it emerged in 2003 in China as as the basis for a vaccine for the new coronavirus.
The plan is to test it for a ‘cross reaction’ with the current virus, the school’s Dean of the National Tropical Medicine, Dr Peter Hotez, told DailyMail.com in a recent interview.
He said that with intense research and work, the vaccine was made ready for manufacture.
But even working at that fast pace, by the time the vaccine was so close to ready, the outbreak had subsided.
And with the immediacy of the threat went the money to fund protection against it.
Now, even the jump-start that their previous vaccine work gives Baylor may not speed its development and testing to under a year, Dr Hotez said.
‘Despite what the anti-vaxxer community claims – that safety testing is not adequate – is not true,’ said Dr Hotez.
‘Things may be accelerated a bit if this turns out to be a real public health emergency, but there is nothing fast about vaccines.’
Nigeria is amount the many countries worldwide now monitoring passengers for fevers in the hopes of keeping coronavirus out. Monitoring is the best that can be done with a vaccine
He too believes that it could take a year or so for Baylor and its collaborators at MIT and in Wuhan to develop a marketable vaccine, and by then, they could run into the same problem they faced with the SARS vaccine: a crisis that has died down similar declines in funders’ interest.
Johnson & Johnson, on the other hand, won’t be working from a prototype. The company is tarting from scratch.
‘We are going to take an approach with at least five different constructs and different partners and collaborations all over the world in order to see which part of the virus we can use to make an effective vaccine and develop a model we can invest in,’ said Dr Stoffel.
He believes, however, that the $390 billion company’s technological advantages will help it expedite the development process.
J&J worked on a vaccine for Ebola, but it hasn’t made it through clinical testing.