Coronavirus vaccine research in Leiden lands $1 billion investment from U.S., Johnson&Johnson

Johnson & Johnson and the United States Department of Health pushed 1 billion dollars into a possible vaccine against coronavirus Covid-19 being developed by Janssen Vaccines & Prevention in Leiden, a subsidiary of the American company. Johnson & Johnson hopes to have the first batches of Covid-19 vaccines ready for emergency authorization by early next year, the company said in a statement.

"The world is facing an urgent public health crisis and we are committed to doing our part to make a Covid-19 vaccine available and affordable globally as quickly as possible," Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky said in the statement. "Johnson & Johnson is well positioned through our combination of scientific expertise, operational scale and financial strength to bring our resources in collaboration with others to accelerate the fight against this pandemic."

Janssen Vaccines & Prevention started researching a Covid-19 vaccine in January, when the genetic code of the virus was discovered, head of viral vaccines Hanneke Schuitemaker said to NOS. The company chose the most promising to research further, as well as two backup candidates. "That has the best chance for the correct vaccine to be produced on a mass scale," she said to the broadcaster.

The $1 billion investment will be used for further research on the vaccine and to scale up production capacity. The aim is to produce about a billion vaccines per year. 

The company hopes to start clinical trials in September. The trials will likely not be held in the Netherlands, as the country's requirements for human testing is more strict than other countries. The tests will probably be done in the United Kingdom and United States, a spokesperson for Janssen told FD earlier this moth. The U.S. elections are set to take place on November.