Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has expanded its partnership with the US Department for Health and Human Service (HSS)’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to commit more than $1bn to co-fund research and development (R&D), as well as clinical testing, of Covid-19 vaccines.

This builds upon an existing partnership between J&J and BARDA to develop anti-viral drugs against the novel coronavirus. This part of the partnership will also receive additional funding; the precise amount was not disclosed.

As part of the new deal, J&J will leverage its subsidiary Janssen’s proprietary vaccine platform, AdVac , and expand its manufacturing capabilities to be able to supply one billion doses of a vaccine globally.

J&J chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky said: “The world is facing an urgent public health crisis and we are committed to doing our part to make a COVID-19 vaccine available and affordable globally as quickly as possible.

“As the world’s largest healthcare company, we feel a deep responsibility to improve the health of people around the world every day.

“J&J is well positioned through our combination of scientific expertise, operational scale and financial strength to bring our resources in collaboration with others to accelerate the fight against this pandemic.”

Simultaneous to the BARDA partnership announcement, J&J announced it had chosen its lead vaccine candidate, as well two back-up vaccines to move into the first manufacturing steps. These candidates were developed in collaboration with Harvard Medical School’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center using Janssen’s AdVac and PER.C6 technologies.

J&J chief scientific officer and executive committee vice-chairman Paul Stoffels added: “We greatly value the US Government’s confidence and support for our R&D efforts.

“We are very pleased to have identified a lead vaccine candidate from the constructs we have been working on since January.

“We are moving on an accelerated timeline toward Phase I human clinical trials at the latest by September 2020 and, supported by the global production capability that we are scaling up in parallel to this testing, we expect a vaccine could be ready for emergency use in early 2021.”