From epidemics like COVID-19, Ebola, HIV and TB to the challenges of adequate-quality primary, community-based healthcare, we are anticipating and responding to the toughest and most pressing challenges that threaten hard-won health gains.
Johnson & Johnson believes that global health security requires coordinated efforts from governments, civil society and healthcare companies. Through Janssen, we are actively engaged in global pandemic preparedness across multiple disease areas, developing new vaccines and treatments to combat a wide range of infectious diseases that are already pandemics, such as HIV and TB, or that have pandemic potential, such as Ebola, Zika and influenza, including immediate action to address new threats as they appear, such as COVID-19. See here for how we are seeking to outsmart pandemics.
For more information on how the intersection of human health and climate health impact are related to pandemics, read our Position Human Health and the Environment. You can also learn more about our efforts to reduce environmental impacts in the Environmental Health section.
Collaboration to support pandemic preparedness
We maintain a wide range of collaborations to address global health security and pandemic preparedness. Specifically, we collaborate with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to advance research and the development of solutions for a range of diseases with pandemic potential, including influenza, Ebola, COVID-19 and others.
The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson have been a leader for many years in efforts to help prevent Ebola outbreaks. In 2019, the first doses of our investigational Ebola vaccine regimen arrived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Rwanda. To help protect people at risk of Ebola in DRC, we have committed to donate up to 500,000 investigational vaccine regimens in support of a new clinical study.
In Rwanda, where citizens are potentially at risk from the Ebola outbreak in neighboring DRC, we are providing up to 200,000 investigational Ebola vaccine regimens (which has been conditionally approved in Rwanda) to support a new immunization program led by the Government of Rwanda. We also provided technology solutions such as biometric identification and mobile messaging to support the Ebola vaccination campaign.
Also, in 2019, the European Medicines Agency Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use granted an Accelerated Assessment for our investigational Ebola vaccine regimen for the prevention of Ebola Virus Disease caused by Zaire ebolavirus species. This is an important step in helping to secure global preparedness for Ebola, especially as the world’s largest Ebola outbreaks have taken place in the last six years alone and continue to spread, for example, as in the 2018 outbreak in DRC.
Containing Malaria, Chagas, Influenza, Zika, Hepatitis B and ExPEC
Malaria: In 2019, we advanced the development of a longacting injectable for malaria prevention with Medicines for Malaria Ventures. Newly developed injectable formulations of a marketed antimalarial agent provided coverage of required target concentrations for three months with a single injection in large and small animal test models. To reach target human populations for this treatment we would support the Seasonal Malaria Control prevention programs in Africa and treat migrants traveling into those regions; and we would participate in malaria elimination programs.
Chagas: Chagas disease affects between eight and 10 million people worldwide, with the majority of cases found in Latin America. It is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi and can lead to serious cardiovascular disorders including congestive heart failure. The current medications used to treat this have a number of undesirable side effects, which limit their use and also do not address late-stage Chagas disease. We are currently engaged in a discovery research program to identify compounds that have the potential to treat both the acute and chronic stages of this disease. We entered into a collaboration agreement in 2019 with the Drugs for Neglected Disease initiative to optimize the hits we have obtained from screening a subset of our chemical library. Through these efforts we hope to identify a lead compound that will allow us to move into developing an effective treatment for this disease.
Influenza: Seasonal influenza is an acute respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses, which circulate in all parts of the world. Illnesses range from mild to severe and even death. Hospitalization and death occur mainly among high-risk groups. Worldwide, these annual epidemics are estimated to result in about three to five million cases of severe illness, and about 290,000 to 650,000 respiratory deaths.3 In 2019, with support from BARDA, we progressed two Phase 3 studies of a new compound with a mechanism of action different from that of existing antiviral drugs.
Zika virus: Zika, a mosquito-transmitted flavivirus, can cause severe congenital disease in children born to mothers infected during pregnancy. Although Zika virus incidence has waned in recent years, a protective vaccine is still urgently needed to prevent congenital Zika syndrome in at-risk areas. We continue to invest and assess the potential of our candidate Zika preventative vaccine, which showed acceptable safety and clear immunogenicity in a 2019 Phase 1 trial. As there is no specific approved medicine or vaccine for Zika virus, we stand ready to respond rapidly and efficiently to potential future outbreaks of Zika virus.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV): Hepatitis B causes more than 887,000 deaths each year and is a major threat to global public health. Some 257 million people worldwide are chronically infected with HBV, and the disease causes around 40% of all primary liver cancers—the second-most deadly cancer.4 Our current investigational HBV treatment portfolio covers many unique mechanisms of action, including novel antivirals that can inhibit the virus from reproducing, as well as vaccines designed to fortify the immune system to control the virus long-term. We are currently progressing our first-ever triple combination Phase 2b clinical trial for HBV.
Extraintestinal Pathogenic Escherichia coli (ExPEC): Bacteremia and sepsis caused by ExPEC bacteria are among the top 10 causes of death in older adults, and the number of cases is rising as the population ages.5 Because of rising antimicrobial resistance, antibiotics are becoming less effective in fighting infections caused by ExPEC, such as bacteremia, when bacteria enter the blood, or sepsis, when the body reacts to infection extremely and dangerously. In 2019, the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research designated fast-track status to Janssen’s ExPEC10V investigational vaccine program. The Innovative Medicines Initiative is co-funding the Phase 3 feasibility study of our ExPEC10V vaccine, which we hope will help contain bacteremia on a broad scale.
Addressing health security needs in Uganda: In 2019, Johnson & Johnson led the Global Health Security Agenda Private Sector Roundtable (PSRT) in negotiating and signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Uganda Ministry of Health to strengthen skills within the Ministry. This new partnership will support Uganda in addressing specific health security needs and will include workforce training in public health management and leadership, diagnostics, data literacy and many other areas.
The signing of the MoU is a huge step for private sector engagement in global health security, but it is only a first step for this partnership, which we hope will serve as a model for future public-private partnerships to better prevent, detect, and respond to health threats.