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Johnson & Johnson vaccine produces 'robust' immune response in monkeys

Johnson & Johnson vaccine produces 'robust' immune response in monkeys
Johnson & Johnson said it plans to enter Phase III trials for its vaccine candidate in September. File Photo by Justin Lane/EPA-EFE

July 30 (UPI) -- Johnson & Johnson announced Thursday that a vaccine candidate currently in human trials has shown success in protecting monkeys from coronavirus.

The company said the potential vaccine -- Ad26.COV2-S -- produced a "robust immune response" in the animals and prevented them from being infected by the virus, which causes COVID-19.

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"We are excited to see these pre-clinical data because they show our SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate generated a strong antibody response and provided protection with a single dose," said Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer of Johnson & Johnson. "The findings give us confidence as we progress our vaccine development and upscale manufacturing in parallel, having initiated a Phase I/IIa trial in July with the intention to move into a Phase III trial in September."

The experimental vaccine is vector-based and uses an Ad26 virus to take the coronavirus spike protein gene to human cells. The cells then use the spike gene to replicate the coronavirus proteins and protect themselves from the virus.

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Johnson & Johnson is testing both one- and two-dose regimens of the vaccine candidate simultaneously. The company is working with Janssen Pharmaceutica, a subsidiary, on their development.

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"As we collectively battle this pandemic, we remain deeply committed to our goal of providing a safe and effective vaccine to the world," said Mathai Mammen, global head of Janssen Research & Development.

"Our pre-clinical results give us reason to be optimistic as we initiate our first-in-human clinical trial, and we are excited to enter the next stage in our research and development toward a COVID-19 vaccine. We know that, if successful, this vaccine can be rapidly developed, produced on a large scale and delivered around the world."

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Johnson & Johnson has said it hopes to produce 1 billion doses of a successful vaccine next year.

The news comes as the globe topped 17.1 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 668,000 deaths as of Thursday midday, according to experts at Johns Hopkins University.

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