Exclusive: J&J in talks with Japan and the Gates Foundation to reach agreements on the COVID-19 vaccine


(Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) is in talks with the government of Japan and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation about locking in allocations for its potential COVID-19 vaccine as it prepares to launch human trials, the company’s chief financial officer told Reuters , Joseph Wolk.

FILE PHOTO: The Johnson & Johnson company logo is displayed to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the company’s listing on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, the United States, on September 17, 2019. REUTERS / Brendan McDermid / File Photo

More than a hundred vaccines are being developed to try to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, and drug manufacturers, including J&J, are working to increase the supply of their vaccines in response to unprecedented demand.

J&J has already agreed to prioritize an allocation to the U.S. as part of its funding agreement with the U.S. government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), said Wolk.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would focus on allocating any vaccine it has acquired to developing countries, added Wolk. Reuters previously reported that J&J was also in talks with the European Union.

“Nothing has been finalized yet. We continue to have these discussions, “Wolk told Reuters. “The people in the countries and organizations we mentioned want to lock in a certain minimum level of capacity that they would get.”

Wolk said that the “general structure” of the discussions would likely take a form similar to that of AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L) are dealing with the United States government, which has provided $ 1.2 billion in drug development assistance to the British drug maker in return for securing a delivery of approximately 300 million doses by fall 2020 .

AstraZeneca has also signed a contract with France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands for up to 400 million doses of its potential vaccine. It has also partnered with non-profit organizations to distribute it in developing countries.

Wolk added that these discussions will help Johnson & Johnson determine the price of his vaccine, which the US drug maker plans to sell non-profit during the pandemic.

“The more demand we have, the better and less this cost would potentially be,” said Wolk.

The company aims to start manufacturing the vaccine later this year, based on its success in clinical trials, he added.

In its call for results on Thursday, J&J said it plans to start its first human trials of its COVID-19 vaccine on July 22 and may start advanced studies in September.

Report by Carl O’Donnell in New York and Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Shumaker

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