Johnson & Johnson said Thursday that the European Commission approved an advance purchase agreement for 200 million doses of the company's COVID-19 vaccine candidate JNJ-78436735. As part of the deal, which follows exploratory talks that concluded in August, EU member states also have the option to purchase enough vaccine for an additional 200 million people.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen stated that "as the coronavirus continues to spread worryingly across Europe, it is crucial to find a vaccine, and fast," while EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides indicated that "more agreements will follow."
This marks the European Commission's third advance purchase agreement for COVID-19 vaccines, after previous supply deals with AstraZeneca for up to 400 million doses of AZD1222, and more recently with Sanofi and its partner GlaxoSmithKline for up to 300 million doses of their protein-based adjuvanted vaccine candidate. As was the case with the two earlier contracts, EU member states will be able to donate JNJ-78436735 to lower- and middle-income countries, or to re-direct it to other European countries. The EU is also said to have made a down payment to secure Johnson & Johnson's vaccine, although the amount paid has not been disclosed.
The JNJ-78436735 candidate, which is also known as Ad26.COV2.S, is a non-replicating adenovirus 26 vector expressing the stabilised pre-fusion spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. "A single dose of JNJ-78436735 elicited strong humoral responses in the vast majority of vaccine recipients," according to early-stage results made public last month. Johnson & Johnson is currently evaluating a single-dose regimen in the Phase III ENSEMBLE trial, which got under way in September and has a targeted enrolment of 60,000 volunteers, while a second Phase III study testing a two-dose regimen is planned to start later this year.
Johnson & Johnson has already signed agreements with other governments, including a $1-billion contract with the US for the initial supply of 100 million doses, as well as one with the UK for an initial 30 million doses.
Meanwhile, the European Commission has also held advance purchase discussions with Moderna and CureVac, as well as an alliance between Pfizer and BioNTech, with von der Leyen previously saying the EU was looking to "build a diversified portfolio of promising vaccines, based on various types of technologies."
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