Johnson & Johnson will spend about $604 million expanding its deal with the U.S. government to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, seeking to catch up with rivals who have forged ahead in the race.
The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority will commit about $454 million in additional money to the Phase 3 Ensemble trial, which seeks to evaluate the efficacy of the company’s vaccine candidate as a single-dose.
Johnson & Johnson is further behind in pharmaceutical companies’ hunt to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. Top contender Pfizer Inc. and its partner BioNTech SE announced this week that their vaccine appears to prevent 90% of Covid infections.
J&J has enrolled only a few thousand participants in its 60,000-person trial, partly because it halted the study in October for two weeks over a safety concern. It now expects to have an initial readout of results from the trial early next year, rather than by the end of 2020.
“Combined with our own significant investment, this agreement has enabled our vital research and development and underscores the importance of public-private partnerships to tackle the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic,” Paul Stoffels, J&J’s chief scientific officer, said in a statement Saturday.
To accelerate the recruitment of participants and cut the trial time in half, J&J has also turned to data experts at UnitedHealth Group Inc.
J&J and Barda, under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, already committed more than $1 billion in March to co-fund the research in an about 50-50 split. Pfizer and BioNTech received funding from the German government, not the U.S., though Americans will be among the first in line to get 100 million doses.
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