The U.S. government has cut deals with Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) and Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) and said it is in talks with at least two other companies to prepare them to produce massive quantities of coronavirus vaccines even before safe and effective ones become available.
There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines specifically for COVID-19, the respiratory disease that has killed more than 35,000 people and infected over 745,000 globally in just a few months.
No vaccine is expected to be ready for use until at least 2021, as they must still be widely tested in humans before being administered to hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people to prevent infection.
On Monday, J&J announced a $1 billion deal with the U.S. government to create enough manufacturing capacity to make more than 1 billion doses of a vaccine, and its shares closed up 8% at $133.01.
It has chosen a candidate but will not begin testing it in people until September.
Moderna, which this month began very early tests of its vaccine candidate in people, also signed a deal with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The arrangements are part of the federal government’s effort to encourage drugmakers to be able to produce massive amounts of COVID-19 vaccines even before any are proven to work.
The J&J effort will be funded in part by about $420 million from BARDA. The agency told Reuters it also plans to spend an unnamed amount to ramp up manufacturing for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate.