In 2020, global health security was dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which highlighted rapidly and painfully how small the world really is when it comes to the spread of disease. See our COVID-19 section for our enterprise-wide response. The incidence and scale of disease outbreaks with epidemic potential appear to be worsening in the 21st century due largely to urbanization, deforestation, globalization and greater human/animal interaction.10
Outsmarting pandemics is a complex challenge, requiring fundamentally robust healthcare systems around the world and collaborative, coordinated preparedness across multiple disease areas that have pandemic potential. Johnson & Johnson is actively engaged in responding to and preventing a broad range of pandemic threats; our experience in these areas has been built over more than a century.
We maintain a wide range of collaborations to advance global health security and pandemic preparedness. One such collaboration is with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to accelerate the research and development of solutions for a range of diseases with pandemic potential.
Our Health for Humanity 2025 GoalsLink to External PDF include a key focus on combating pandemics and epidemics.
See sections HIV and TB, and our United in Defeating COVID-19 section for further information. In addition to our work in these areas, we continue to advance ways to protect global health from diseases such as Ebola, Zika, influenza and others.
In 2020, we made advancements in the prevention of Ebola:
Approval of Janssen’s Ebola11 vaccine regimen: In 2020, the European Commission granted marketing authorization for our vaccine regimen for the prevention of disease caused by Ebola virus. The vaccine regimen leverages Janssen’s ADVAC technology (that is also being used to develop vaccines against COVID-19, RSV RSV Respiratory syncytial virus , HIV and Zika) and Bavarian Nordic’s MVA-BN technology. This approval marks the first major regulatory approval of a vaccine developed by Janssen and enables us to collaborate with the WHO on vaccine pre-qualification to help accelerate broader access to those most in need, including registration of our Ebola vaccine regimen in African countries. This regimen is for active immunization for prevention of disease caused by Ebola virus in individuals one year of age or older.
Continued use of our Ebola vaccine regimen: In 2020, our Ebola vaccine regimen continued to be used in response to the second-worst outbreak on record, in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which was declared over in June 2020. Our vaccine continues to be used as part of the Rwanda Ministry of Health’s UMURINZI vaccination campaign, which was launched in December 2019 in response to the North Kivu outbreak, and is aimed at protecting people living along Rwanda’s border with the DRC from the threat of Ebola. To date, nearly 200,000 individuals have received at least the first dose of our Ebola vaccine regimen, many of whom live in Ebola-prone areas in Africa.
Supporting Ebola vaccination awareness and engagement: We are supporting the Ebola vaccination campaign and community engagement through our work in the EBODAC (Ebola Vaccine Deployment, Acceptance and Compliance) consortium, which is funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative and also includes the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, World Vision and Grameen Foundation. Innovative iris scanning technology and automated phone reminders help track the uptake and impact of the Janssen Ebola vaccine while a mobile training platform reinforces key Ebola messages for the community health worker population.
Our Health for Humanity 2025 Goals include a focus on using digital technologies to combat pandemics and epidemics.
New trial for Ebola vaccine in pregnant women: In 2020, we initiated a trial of our two-dose Ebola vaccine regimen in healthy pregnant women in Rwanda called INGABO. Pregnant women who have contracted Ebola face increased mortality and morbidity, and a near 100% rate of adverse pregnancy outcomes.12
For more about our work to combat Ebola, see our Ebola web page.
Collaborating to reduce emerging and endemic infectious disease risk: In 2020, we continued our Forest Health Futures collaboration with EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing emerging infectious diseases, and the Government of Liberia. Our focus was on advancing modeling efforts that will help the Liberian government better predict the potential risk of emerging infectious diseases, including Lassa Fever, from development activities, and the potential risk of increasing rates of endemic diseases (e.g., malaria).
Other areas of progress in 2020 include:
Unlocking the collective power of the global community: In December 2020, Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS JLABS Johnson & Johnson Innovation—JLABS and BARDA BARDA Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services convened a virtual three-day symposium of the BLUE KNIGHT ™ community comprised of thought leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs to explore infectious disease, public health and acceleration of response. The sessions explored high-priority areas of interest for scientific and technological innovation aimed at improving our preparedness and response to emerging health security threats. Blue Knight is a new joint initiative formed by JLABS and BARDA to stimulate innovation and incubation of technologies that improve health security.
Protection from respiratory pathogens: In 2020, we named the winner of our JLABS QuickFire Challenge, launched in 2019, inviting innovators to submit potential solutions that repel and protect against airborne viruses while integrating seamlessly into everyday life. The winner, Taza Aya, specializes in non-thermal plasmas used to sterilize or deodorize ventilation air across a range of industries and applications.
Overcoming Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR): In 2020, Johnson & Johnson joined more than 20 leading pharmaceutical companies to collectively invest nearly $1 billion through the AMR Action Fund with the goal of bringing two to four new antibiotics to patients by the end of the next decade. This is the world’s largest public-private partnership now working to address AMR AMR Antimicrobial Resistance , acknowledging that immediate action is required. As a founding member, we committed $100 million to the Fund. For more information on our approach to AMR, see our Position on Antimicrobial Resistance.
Growing drug resistance is compounding AMR as a public health challenge. For example, drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) now accounts for nearly one-third of all deaths from AMR,14 with hundreds of thousands of new cases of DR-TB detected each year. See also the section on TB.
For more information on how the intersection of human health and climate health impacts are related to pandemics, read our Position on Human Health and the Environment.