Feb 12, 2020 - Health

NIH has no big drug manufacturer on board to make its coronavirus vaccine

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during a press conference on recent developments with the coronavirus
Anthony Fauci speaks at a Feb. 7 press conference on coronavirus developments. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

A leading U.S. health official said Tuesday it's "very frustrating" that no major drug firm has yet offered to make a vaccine against the novel coronavirus that the National Institutes of Health is helping develop, STAT News reports.

Why it matters: When outbreaks of new worrisome pathogens start, governments may immediately start working on diagnostics, vaccines and treatments, but they also need a buy-in from drug companies that sometimes get burned if the outbreak suddenly peters out or the drug isn't successful.

Details: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci said on a panel hosted by STAT and the Aspen Institute that it'd take "at least a year" before a coronavirus vaccine could become available — and that's assuming a pharmaceutical manufacturing giant were to produce the product.

  • Fauci noted that although the NIH had partnered with Moderna to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, a large manufacturer would be needed to "take on the risky venture of manufacturing the product if it is successful in human testing," according to an S&P Global report of the panel discussion.
  • "The companies that have the skill to be able to do it ... [are] going to have to stop making polio vaccines, measles vaccines, hepatitis vaccines to put your particular product in," Fauci said, per S&P Global.

The big picture: Several U.S. pharmaceutical firms have said they're working on their own vaccines against the new coronavirus, which has killed over 1,1100 people and infected more than 45,000 others — mostly in mainland China. These include Inovio, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, according to the State Department.

What they're saying: Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies would "further expedite its investigational coronavirus vaccine program" in collaboration with HHS'' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

  • "This partnership will ensure that vital research is made possible at rapid speed and underscores the importance of public-private partnerships to tackle the worldwide novel coronavirus epidemic," Paul Stoffels, vice chairman of the executive committee and chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson, said in a statement.
  • "We are also in discussions with other partners, that if we have a vaccine candidate with potential, we aim to make it accessible to China and other parts of the world."

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