The global community is extremely vulnerable to infectious diseases with pandemic potential. In today’s hyper-connected world, these diseases can have staggering public health and economic consequences. Globally, outbreaks of such diseases are occurring with increasing frequency, exacerbated by globalization, urbanization and growing resistance of pathogens to available drugs.
Johnson & Johnson believes that global health security is everyone’s responsibility and requires coordinated effort from governments, civil society and healthcare companies. Our experts are working tirelessly to help prevent the next pandemic.
We are actively engaged in global pandemic preparedness across multiple disease areas. Through Janssen, we are developing new vaccines and treatments to combat a wide range of infectious diseases that are already pandemics, such as HIV and tuberculosis (TB), or that have pandemic potential, including Ebola, Zika and influenza.
To address other known threats and prepare for those that may emerge, we were founding members of a unique public-private partnership, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which now finances and coordinates the development of new vaccines to prevent and contain infectious disease epidemics. CEPI, supported by Germany, Japan, Norway and the UK, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome Trust and others, seeks to give the world an insurance policy against epidemics by delivering a pipeline of promising vaccine candidates that are tested and ready for use as soon as a disease breaks out.
Research to prevent new epidemics
In 2018, CEPI allocated funding of $19 million to experts at Janssen Vaccines and The Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford to work on the development of new vaccines against three major diseases: the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus; the brain-damaging Nipah virus; and the Lassa virus, which causes hemorrhagic fever. MERS first emerged in humans in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and has since spread to infect more than 2,200 people in dozens of countries, killing one in three of those it infects. Both the Lassa and Nipah viruses cause small but serious outbreaks of disease in Asia and Africa, and experts say they have shown the capacity to spread across borders and become fast-growing and potential deadly epidemics.
The Johnson & Johnson Office of the Chief Medical Officer partnered with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response to develop innovative products that address the possibly damaging health effects of chemical, biological, radiation and nuclear threats, emerging infectious diseases, and antimicrobial resistant infections.
Johnson & Johnson has been a leader in efforts to help prevent Ebola outbreaks. In partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in the United States, Europe’s Innovative Medicines Initiative, Bavarian Nordic A/S and other stakeholders, we accelerated clinical testing of an investigational two-dose Ebola vaccine regimen in development at Janssen. This led to multiple Janssen-sponsored clinical studies for the Ebola vaccine across Africa, Europe and the United States. Positive Phase 1 findings were published in 2017, showing that 100% of healthy volunteers receiving the vaccine regimen generated an Ebola virus-specific antibody response that was still high after one year following vaccination.
We are closely monitoring the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and stand ready to mobilize our resources and expertise if we are called upon to do so. We have maintained a significant stockpile for the express purpose of tackling such outbreaks. If deemed appropriate by the WHO or authorities in the DRC, we will mobilize to make supplies of our investigational vaccine available to public health authorities and the people of the DRC.
Because of their ease of transmission and rapid mutations, influenza viruses continue to pose a significant threat to global public health. Every year, more than one billion flu cases are reported worldwide, resulting in five million cases of severe illness and up to 650,000 deaths globally.17 To address this challenge, we partner with many of the world’s leading experts, policy makers, academic and clinical institutions, NGOs, and other pharmaceutical companies for the development of innovative medicines and vaccines. For example, our partnership with the BARDA part of the U.S. HHS is designed to develop a comprehensive portfolio of therapeutics and vaccines to protect communities in the event of an influenza pandemic and other infectious disease threats.
We continue to explore ways to stem the generation of new viral mutations and develop new diagnostic tools for early identification, while collaborating to develop an investigational single universal vaccine to help protect against influenza. One development, an oral influenza treatment, pimodivir, began Phase 3 clinical trials in January 2018.
The unprecedented Zika virus epidemic across the Americas in 2016 led the WHO to declare Zika a public health emergency of international concern. In response to the outbreak, particularly in Brazil, Johnson & Johnson partnered with IPADS, a Brazilian NGO, and the National Council of Municipal Health Secretaries, to help develop ZikaLab, an initiative to train healthcare providers on Zika, including transmission, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. In addition, Janssen is collaborating with the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to develop a Zika vaccine.
We collaborate with Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) to help develop better medicines to protect vulnerable populations from malaria, including children and pregnant women. We are combining our expertise—Janssen in long-acting injectable formulation technology and MMV in malaria drug development—to develop a slow release dosage form that provides protection against malaria for up to three months with a single injection. In 2018, the combined team began investigations with P218—a compound with the potential to provide protection against malaria, discovered through an MMV partnership with BIOTEC Thailand, Monash University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine—and has added other compounds known to be safe and effective to the joint program.
New collaboration with BARDA to improve health security
In 2018, we entered into a collaboration with BARDA on a crowdsourcing initiative to develop new respiratory protection devices to protect both healthcare workers and the public, including children, in the event of a health security threat. The crowdsourcing platform selected was our JLABS incubator QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE, which we leverage to find scientists, companies and entrepreneurs with healthcare innovations that could bring our research to the next level. In this partnership, QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE will be the first platform of its kind in a healthcare setting, and we expect the outcome to benefit BARDA’s mission to make available medical countermeasures to address health security threats.