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Johnson & Johnson requests early start for late-stage vaccine tests

Johnson & Johnson hopes to begin a late-stage human trial for a potential COVID-19 vaccine in two months. File Photo by Justin Lane/EPA-EFE
Johnson & Johnson hopes to begin a late-stage human trial for a potential COVID-19 vaccine in two months. File Photo by Justin Lane/EPA-EFE

July 16 (UPI) -- Johnson & Johnson is asking the federal government for an early start of a late-stage clinical trial that's examining a potential COVID-19 vaccine, a company official said Thursday.

Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels told reporters that talks with the National Institutes of Health could move up the timetable for the final stages of its trial, which is testing the vaccine candidate Ad26.COV2-S.

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He said the company is hoping to begin in late September, well ahead of schedule.

The company said last week it's ramping up manufacturing capacity in case the recombinant DNA vaccine candidate proves safe and effective. The pharma company said if the candidate is effective, it expects to produce 1 billion doses next year.

Johnson & Johnson Executive Vice President Joseph Wolk told CNBC the company also plans to begin a phase one human trial next week. Additionally, the company said it has phase-two studies in the Netherlands, Spain and Germany.

Wednesday, U.S. biotech company Moderna said its vaccine candidate is producing a "rapid and strong" immune response against COVID-19, and will begin late-stage testing before the end of the month.

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Monday, Pfizer and German partner BioNTech said they received "fast track" designation from U.S. regulators for two vaccine candidates.

Other candidates have also shown early promise, including potential vaccines from Inovio and Chinese firm CanSino Biologics.

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