J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate enters phase-three trial

24 Sep 2020

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Unlike other candidates currently being developed, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine could require just one shot instead of two.

While a number of other Covid-19 vaccine candidates are already in phase-three trials, Johnson & Johnson has now joined the ranks with the launch of a phase-three clinical trial that will recruit 60,000 participants across three continents.

The pharma giant’s candidate involves a single-dose vaccine, which could help trials move faster than competitors as researchers will be able to measure efficacy after one shot rather than two.

The vaccine candidate is being developed by the company’s Janssen pharma business. It said in a statement that the initiation of the phase-three trial, entitled Ensemble, follows positive interim results from earlier clinical studies.

Currently, there are 10 phase-three trials underway for Covid-19 vaccines. A phase-three trial involves giving the vaccine candidate to thousands of people to determine its safety and efficacy.

‘Pivotal milestone’

Johnson & Johnson’s chair and CEO, Alex Gorsky, said the company’s goal is to leverage its global reach and scientific innovation to help bring an end to the pandemic.

“As the world’s largest healthcare company, we are bringing to bear our best scientific minds and rigorous standards of safety, in collaboration with regulators, to accelerate the fight against this pandemic,” he said.

“This pivotal milestone demonstrates our focused efforts toward a Covid-19 vaccine that are built on collaboration and deep commitment to a robust scientific process. We are committed to clinical trial transparency and to sharing information related to our study, including details of our study protocol.”

The vaccine candidate uses the company’s AdVac technology platform, which has been used to make other vaccines including an Ebola vaccine that was approved by the European Commission earlier this year.

As well as only requiring a single shot, the Janssen candidate does not need to be kept as cold as other vaccines, which would make it easier to distribute to developing countries.

Meanwhile, other vaccine candidate trials are continuing. Sanofi and GSK began their phase-one and two trials earlier this month and the high-profile AstraZeneca-Oxford trial has resumed after it was briefly put on hold.

‘Druggable pocket’

Earlier this week, scientists said they have found a “druggable pocket” in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which could be used to stop the virus from infecting human cells.

The international team of scientists led by the University of Bristol said their findings, which are published in the journal Science, are a potential “game changer” in combatting the virus.

At the beginning of September, another team of researchers revealed positive findings suggesting that mutations in Covid-19 are rare. This means that a single vaccine could be effective against all currently circulating viral strains.

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic