Johnson & Johnson Project Becomes 4th US COVID-19 Vaccine To Enter 'Phase 3' Trials

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, Sep 23, 2020 - 07:24 AM

Update (0800ET): In a tweet that will undoubtedly rankle Bill Gates and everyone who has slammed President Trump for interfering with the FDA's approval process, Trump congratulated JNJ for its latest accomplishment, and urged the FDA to act quickly.

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As worries about vaccine makers' credibility intensify, Johnson & Johnson announced Wednesday morning that it would become the fourth US vaccine project to enter 'Phase 3' trials.

Johnson & Johnson has officially started dosing the first of the 60,000 volunteers it has recruited/will recruit for the Dow component's final long-term trial, which differs from other US trials by being the first big US trial to test inoculation after just one dose of the vaccine.

If JNJ doesn't encounter any issues recruiting the 60,000 people it needs for the trial - like other vaccine trials, participants will be sorted into two groups: One will receive the vaccine, the other, a placebo. Then vaccine makers wait to see if any of the patients inoculated with the vaccine contract the virus.

JNJ expects the trial to yield results as soon as year-end, allowing the company to seek emergency authorization from the FDA early next year, should the vaccine prove effective, said Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels.

As far as the official timeline, CNBC interviewed Trump's "Vaccine Czar" yesterday, who said that we are "pretty close" to finding a vaccine, with three vaccines in Phase 3 and a "fourth one starting imminently".

"The readout is 50% of the answer to the question...that will happen some time between October and January. The other 50% of when a vaccine will be available is manufacturing...".

If things go as planned, the US plans to vaccinate the most vulnerable patients by the end of the year, then proceed on to front-line health-care workers in January, then start rolling vaccines out to the rest of the US population - at least, to those who are willing to be inoculated - some time after that.

In other news, the US topped the "unfathomable" - as the Associated Press termed it - milestone of 200,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday morning, while the CDC unveiled new holiday guidelines declaring - most importantly - that Halloween 'trick-or-treating' can continue (more or less) as normal.

JNJ is using a 'viral vector' vaccine approach similar to vaccines developed by CanSino and Russia's Gameleya Institute, which are some of the most advanced vaccine projects outside of the West.

Here's more on that from the NYT:

A decade ago, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston developed a method for making vaccines out of a virus called Adenovirus 26, or Ad26 for short. Johnson & Johnson developed vaccines for Ebola and other diseases with Ad26 and have now made one for the coronavirus. In March they received $456 million from the United States government to support their move towards production. The vaccine has provided protection in experiments on monkeys. Johnson & Johnson launched Phase 1/2 trials in July and will launch a Phase 3 trial with 60,000 participants in September in Latin America. In August, the federal government agreed to pay $1 billion for 100 million doses if the vaccine is approved. The company is aiming for production of at least a billion doses in 2021.

The 4 US vaccine projects that have entered Phase 3 are the partnerships between Pfizer and BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Oxford and the Moderna vaccine - and now JNJ.

Outside the US, China has a handful of projects in Phase 3, while Russia's Gameleya Institute vaccine recently entered Phase 3 as well, with trials beginning around the world. In Australia, the Murdoch Children's Research Institute is developing a vaccine.

Read the full press release below:

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J., Sept. 23, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) (the Company) today announced the launch of its large-scale, pivotal, multi-country Phase 3 trial (ENSEMBLE) for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, JNJ-78436735, being developed by its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies. The initiation of the ENSEMBLE trial follows positive interim results from the Company's Phase 1/2a clinical study, which demonstrated that the safety profile and immunogenicity after a single vaccination were supportive of further development. These results have been submitted to medRxiv and are due to be published online imminently. Based on these results and following discussions with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), ENSEMBLE will enroll up to 60,000 volunteers across three continents and will study the safety and efficacy of a single vaccine dose versus placebo in preventing COVID-19.

Johnson & Johnson has continued the scaling up of its manufacturing capacity and remains on track to meet its goal of providing one billion doses of a vaccine each year. The Company is committed to bringing an affordable vaccine to the public on a not-for-profit basis for emergency pandemic use and anticipates the first batches of a COVID-19 vaccine to be available for emergency use authorization in early 2021, if proven to be safe and effective.

Johnson & Johnson will develop and test its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in accordance with high ethical standards and sound scientific principles. The Company is committed to transparency and sharing information related to the Phase 3 ENSEMBLE study – including the study protocol.

"As COVID-19 continues to impact the daily lives of people around the world, our goal remains the same – leveraging the global reach and scientific innovation of our company to help bring an end to this pandemic," said Alex Gorsky, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Johnson & Johnson. "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. 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."

"We remain fully focused on developing an urgently needed, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine for people around the world," said Paul Stoffels, M.D., Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson. "We greatly value the collaboration and support from our scientific partners and global health authorities as our global team of experts work tirelessly on the development of the vaccine and scaling up our production capacity with a goal to deliver a vaccine for emergency use authorization in early 2021."

The Janssen COVID-19 vaccine candidate leverages the Company's AdVac® technology platform, which was also used to develop and manufacture Janssen's European Commission approved Ebola vaccine and construct its Zika, RSV, and HIV vaccine candidates. Janssen's AdVac technology platform has been used to vaccinate more than 100,000 people to date across Janssen's investigational vaccine programs.

With Janssen's AdVac® technology, the vaccine, if successful, is estimated at launch to remain stable for two years at -20 °C and at least three months at 2-8° C. This makes the vaccine candidate compatible with standard vaccine distribution channels and would not require new infrastructure to get it to the people who need it.


The Phase 3 ENSEMBLE study is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a single vaccine dose versus placebo in up to 60,000 adults 18 years old and older, including significant representation from those that are over age 60. The trial will include those both with and without comorbidities associated with an increased risk for progression to severe COVID-19, and will aim to enroll participants in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, South Africa and the United States. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of Janssen's COVID-19 vaccine, countries and clinical trial sites which have a high incidence of COVID-19 and the ability to achieve a rapid initiation will be activated.

Built on a legacy of purpose-driven actions and a commitment to diversity and inclusion, the Company aims to achieve representation of populations that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic in the implementation of its COVID-19 Phase 3 trial program. In the U.S., this includes significant representation of Black, Hispanic/Latinx, American Indian and Alaskan Native participants.

ENSEMBLE is being initiated in collaboration with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under Other Transaction Agreement HHSO100201700018C, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at HHS.

In parallel, the Company has also agreed in principle to collaborate with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the UK Government) on a separate Phase 3 clinical trial in multiple countries to explore a two-dose regimen of Janssen's vaccine candidate.
"With our vaccine candidate now in our global Phase 3 trial, we are one step closer to finding a solution for COVID-19. We used a highly scientific and evidence-based approach to select this vaccine candidate. We are extremely grateful for the tireless efforts of our researchers and for the vital contributions of those participants who have volunteered to take part in our studies. Together, we are working to help combat this pandemic," said Mathai Mammen, M.D., Ph.D., Global Head, Janssen Research & Development, LLC, Johnson & Johnson.

The Company is in ongoing discussions with many stakeholders, including national governments and global organizations, as part of its efforts to meet its commitment to make the vaccine candidate accessible globally, provided the vaccine is demonstrated to be safe and effective and following regulatory approval.

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Source: PR Newswire