A Johnson & Johnson building is on display in Irvine, California.
Mike Blake | Reuters
Johnson & Johnson are planning to begin what would be the biggest, in the late-stage trial testing a potential coronavirus vaccine in September, the company confirmed Thursday.
The phase three trial would enroll up to 60,000 healthy people aged 18 and older across nearly 180 locations in the U.S. and other countries, according to a spokesman for J&J and ClinicalTrials.gov.
Participants will be randomly selected to receive a dose of the potential vaccine as a placebo, according to details of the trial, which will determine whether the vaccine is safe and effective. They will be followed by researchers for more than two years.
“Our Phase 3 program is designed to be as robust as possible, can accommodate up to 60,000 participants and will be conducted in places with high incident rates,” Jake Sargent spokeswoman Jake Sargent said in a statement to CNBC. “We use epidemiology and modeling data to predict and plan where our studies should take place and expect that to be finalized soon.”
J&J is one of several companies in a race to develop a potential vaccine for Covid-19, which has infected more than 22.4 million people worldwide and killed at least 788,500, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
As of Thursday, more than 160 vaccines worldwide are under development, according to the World Health Organization, with at least 30 already in clinical trials.
Public health officials and infectious disease experts say world leaders need an array of drugs and vaccines to defeat the virus, which broke out more than seven months ago.
J & J’s trial would be the largest to ever test a coronavirus vaccine. Drug companies Moderna and Pfizer, which both began late-stage trials last month for their potential coronavirus vaccines, said they would enroll about 30,000 participants.
J&J said it uses the same technologies it uses to make its experimental Ebola vaccine, which was delivered to people in the Democratic Republic of Congo in late 2019. It is about fighting genetic material from the coronavirus with a custom adenovirus known to cause colds in humans.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced on August 5 that it had reached a deal with Janssen, J & J’s pharmaceutical subsidiary, worth about $ 1 billion for 100 million doses of its vaccine. The deal gives the federal government the option to order an additional 200 million doses, according to the announcement.
The company has previously said it could produce 600 million to 900 million doses by April if the vaccine works properly.
J&J expects potential vaccine batches for potential emergency use available in early 2021, the company told CNBC on Thursday.