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Johnson & Johnson begins late-stage coronavirus vaccine trials with as much as 60,000 individuals in September

Johnson & Johnson plans to begin the largest late-stage study testing a potential coronavirus vaccine in September, the company confirmed Thursday.

According to a J&J spokesperson and ClinicalTrials.gov, the Phase 3 study would enroll up to 60,000 healthy people aged 18 and over in nearly 180 locations in the US and other countries.

Participants will be randomly selected to receive a dose of the potential vaccine or a placebo according to the details of the study, which will determine whether the vaccine is safe and effective. They have been followed by researchers for more than two years.

"Our Phase 3 program is designed to be as robust as possible, could include up to 60,000 participants, and will be run in locations with high incidence rates," Jake Sargent, spokesman for J&J, said in a statement to CNBC. "We are using epidemiological and modeling data to predict and plan where our studies will take place and to expect them to be completed soon."

J&J is one of several companies in a race to develop a potential vaccine against Covid-19, which has infected more than 22.4 million people and killed at least 788,500 people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 160 vaccines are in development worldwide by Thursday, of which at least 30 are already in clinical trials.

Public health officials and infectious disease experts say world leaders will need a range of drugs and vaccines to fight the virus, which emerged more than seven months ago.

J & J's study would be the largest test of a coronavirus vaccine yet. Pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer, both of which started late-stage studies last month for their potential coronavirus vaccines, said they would enroll around 30,000 participants.

J&J said it uses the same technologies it used to make its experimental Ebola vaccine, which was made available to people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in late 2019. It involves combing genetic material from the coronavirus with a modified adenovirus, which is known to often cause colds in humans.

The U.S. Department of Health announced on Aug. 5 that it had signed a contract with Janssen, J & J's pharmaceutical subsidiary, worth approximately $ 1 billion for 100 million doses of its vaccine. The deal gives the federal government the opportunity to order another 200 million cans, according to the announcement.

The company previously announced that it would produce 600 to 900 million doses by April if the vaccine works well.

J&J expects potential batches of vaccine to be available for the potential emergency in early 2021, the company announced to CNBC on Thursday.

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