February 1, 2021
Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine has generated strong protection against acute COVID-19 in a large, late-stage trial—raising hopes that it can rapidly reshape a stumbling immunization campaign, Bloomberg reports.
“If you can prevent severe disease in a high percentage of individuals, that will alleviate so much of the stress and human suffering” of the pandemic, said Anthony Fauci—director of the National Institute of Allelrgy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the top U.S. infectious-disease official—at a briefing on the results with company and government officials.
Based on the result, J&J plans to file with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for an emergency-use authorization next week. The drug giant’s top scientist said this month he expects a clearance in March, and that it would have product ready to ship then.
J&J’s vaccine is different from the messenger RNA-based shots made by Moderna and partners Pfizer and BioNTech SE. It is based on an adenovirus, or cold germ that has been modified to make copies of the coronavirus spike protein—which the pathogen uses to force its way into cells. The altered virus can’t replicate in humans, but it triggers an immune response that prepares the body to defend itself against the coronavirus. J&J uses the same technology in a vaccine to fight Ebola.
J&J’s R&D head said the company’s trial, conducted at the height of the pandemic, had to deal with resistant variants that arose mainly after Moderna’s and Pfizer’s trials were finished. When counting cases, it also focused on somewhat sicker patients, Mammen said.
“If those vaccine programs accrued cases at the same time as us, when viral infections were so much higher, incidents were higher, and variants were all around us, they would have gotten different numbers,” he said. “The fact that we could do this level of efficacy with a single shot—people don’t have to come back for another, and it’s conveniently stored— well that makes this the vaccine of choice.”
Research contact: @Bloomberg