Johnson & Johnson moved up the start of human clinical trials for its experimental vaccine against the highly contagious coronavirus by two months to the second half of July, as the drugmaker rushes to develop a prevention for COVID-19, the company said on Wednesday.
The acceleration should allow J&J to take part in the massive clinical trials program planned by the U.S. government, which aims to have an effective vaccine by year end.
J&J shares rose nearly 2% to $148.69.
Last March, J&J signed deals with the U.S. government to create enough manufacturing capacity to produce more than 1 billion doses of its vaccine through 2021, even before it has evidence that it works.
There are currently no U.S. approved treatments or vaccines for the virus. A vaccine is seen as essential to ending the pandemic that has infected more than 7.2 million people and killed over 412,000 globally, while battering economies worldwide.
J&J initially expected safety trials to start in September. Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels told Reuters the company has been working closely with its U.S. government partners to accelerate that timeline.
“Based on the strength of the preclinical data we have seen so far and interactions with the regulatory authorities, we have been able to further accelerate the clinical development,” Stoffels said in a statement on Wednesday.
J&J’s study will test the vaccine for safety and early signs of efficacy in 1,045 healthy volunteers aged 18 to 55 years, and in those aged 65 and older. The trial will take place in the United States and Belgium.