New Brunswick-based Johnson & Johnson is mobilizing resources at its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies to launch a multi-pronged response to the novel coronavirus (also known as 2019-nCoV or Wuhan coronavirus) outbreak. As part of this work, the company has initiated efforts to develop a vaccine candidate against 2019-nCoV and broadly collaborate with others to screen a library of antiviral therapies. Identifying compounds with antiviral activity against 2019-nCoV may contribute to providing immediate relief to the current outbreak.
“J&J has a long-standing commitment to fight established and emerging epidemics and is supporting global efforts where we can make the greatest impact. We are collaborating with regulators, healthcare organizations, institutions and communities worldwide to help ensure our research platforms, existing science and outbreak expertise can be maximized to stem this public health threat,” said Paul Stoffels, M.D., vice chairman of the executive committee and chief scientific officer, Johnson & Johnson. “This latest outbreak of a novel pathogen once again reinforces the importance of investing in preparedness, surveillance and response to ensure the world remains ahead of potential pandemic threats.”
The vaccine program will leverage Janssen’s AdVac® and PER.C6® technologies that provide the ability to rapidly upscale production of the optimal vaccine candidate. These are the same technologies that were used in the development and manufacturing of Janssen’s investigational Ebola vaccine, which is currently deployed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. They were also used to construct the company’s Zika, RSV and HIV vaccine candidates.
Johnson & Johnson’s multi-pronged approach also includes a review of known pathways in coronavirus pathophysiology to determine whether previously tested medicines can be used to help patients survive a 2019-nCoV infection and reduce the severity of disease in non-lethal cases. In addition, Janssen has donated 300 boxes of its HIV medication PREZCOBIX® (darunavir/cobicistat) to the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center and Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University for use in research to support efforts in finding a solution against the 2019-nCoV. Furthermore, another 50 boxes have been provided to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention for laboratory-based investigations (drug-screening for antiviral properties against 2019-nCoV). All shipments have been delivered and, if further donations are required, the company is open to cooperating with all healthcare institutions and agencies to support efforts in finding a solution against 2019-nCoV.
The requests from the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center and Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University follow a recommendation from the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences for investigation of 30 potentially effective compounds, including darunavir – the protease inhibitor component of PREZCOBIX – against
2019-nCoV. Based on anecdotal findings, a protease inhibitor has previously shown a potential favorable clinical response against severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) associated coronavirus.
The company’s expedited research and development schedule is in response to the current 2019-nCoV outbreak in China. The World Health Organization has now confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV across mainland China, with cases also confirmed in countries and territories worldwide, including Australia, Cambodia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, Malaysia, Nepal, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, the U.S.A and Vietnam. 2019-nCoV is from a group of viruses called coronaviruses that attack the respiratory system.
PREZCOBIX is a prescription medicine, licensed in many countries including China, for the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1). It has not been proven safe and effective for the treatment of 2019-nCoV and further investigations are required. Cobicistat is from Gilead Sciences, Inc. For specific indications and prescribing information, please consult your local health authorities.
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