Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) to Accelerate Development of Ebola Vaccine
Shares of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) were up +0.03 or +0.03 percent to $103.79 per share in premarket trading early Thursday, after news that the company will fast track the development of a new combination vaccine regimen against the Ebola virus. Johnson & Johnson stock closed at $103.76 in Wednesday's regular trading session.
Johnson & Johnson said they will be collaborating with Danish biotech company Bavarian Nordic, as well as with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in developing the vaccine. The three entities will work towards beginning clinical trials in humans by early next year.
The Ebola virus has claimed over 1,900 lives since March in the West African nations of Sierra Leon, Nigeria, Guinea and Liberia. According to the World Health Organization or WHO the number of cases, currently at 3,500 could increase to as many as 20,000 before the epidemic is controlled.
Johnson & Johnson's Chief Scientific Officer, Paul Stoffels said that, "Because of the emergency we decided to focus on the Ebola Zaire strain, which is the one in the West Africa outbreak, and that's why we can accelerate the program significantly, he continued, "The crisis is so important here, and still expanding, that more than one approach is warranted, in case the epidemic doesn't come under control in the coming months .
The fast tracking of the vaccine's development by Johnson & Johnson follows a decision by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to begin human testing on an Ebola vaccine this month. GlaxoSmithKline also plans on testing a vaccine developed by scientists employed by the Canadian government and licensed to New Links Genetics (NLNK).
A recent ruling by the WHO stated that experimental testing of Ebola treatments was ethical in light of the high death toll, and according to New Links Genetics, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has allowed the company to begin testing its experimental vaccine on humans.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine as in other experimental vaccines against other diseases uses a common cold virus, known as adenovirus to carry the vaccine's payload. The J&J vaccine consists of two injections: one to prime the immune system and one to boost the immune system's response, while GlaxoSmithKline's vaccine consists of only one injection.
Johnson & Johnson stock is virtually unchanged after the news in Thursday's premarket trading indicating a cautious response to the news by investors. J&J stock is trading just under its yearly high of $106.74 and could test its high in the near term as the implications of the news are absorbed by the market.
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