March 30 (UPI) -- Pharma giant Johnson & Johnson said Monday it has identified a lead candidate for development of a coronavirus vaccine and it could become available within a year.
The company, which made the announcement Monday, said human testing of the experimental vaccine will begin by September at the latest -- a "substantially accelerated time frame" in comparison to the typical vaccine development process.
As part of a $1 billion crash program funded by the company and the federal Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, Johnson & Johnson said it will also scale-up manufacturing capacity with the goal of providing more than 1 billion doses.
The company said it also has identified two backup candidates from its work toward developing a vaccine, which began in January.
"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," said company Chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky.
Johnson & Johnson is expects the vaccine could receive emergency-use authorization from the FDA in early 2021. Emergency-use authorization is an expedited means by which the FDA approves new drugs, or new uses for existing drugs, during a health emergency.
Government health researchers have supplied additional funding to expand a cooperative effort to identify potential anti-viral treatments against the coronavirus disease known as COVID-19.
Also Monday, two major U.S. health insurers -- Humana and Cigna -- announced they will waive co-payments for all treatment costs related to the disease.
Humana previously said it would cover related out-of-pocket costs for testing, but will also waive co-payments involving treatment. The policy includes inpatient hospital admissions, fully insured commercial members, Medicare Supplement and Medicaid.
Cigna also said it's waiving customer cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment through May 31.
"Our customers with COVID-19 should focus on fighting this virus and preventing its spread," said President and CEO David Cordani. "While our customers focus on regaining their health, we have their backs."