Johnson & Johnson's potential coronavirus vaccine prevented serious illness in a small group of Syrian golden hamsters, the company said Thursday.
J&J researchers vaccinated hamsters with a single dose and exposed the rodents to the virus four weeks later, the company said.
J&J said the vaccine elicited neutralizing antibodies in hamsters who received the vaccine, which the researchers believe are necessary to build immunity to the virus. Vaccinated hamsters also appeared to lose less weight than unvaccinated hamsters and had no serious clinical illnesses such as pneumonia or mortality. The results were published Thursday in the medical journal Nature Medicine.
"This preclinical study further confirms our confidence in our SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate," said Paul Stoffels, J & J's chief scientific officer, in a press release. "With our Phase 3 trials scheduled to begin this month, we remain committed to expanding our manufacturing and distribution capabilities to provide global access to our SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate if it is safe in humans and should prove effective. "
The promising results in hamsters do not necessarily mean that the vaccine offers the same level of protection in humans. However, J&J researchers noted that the results are important as Covid-19 is known to cause serious illness in some people.
J&J is one of several companies working to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus, which continues to spread rapidly around the world. The company expects a late-stage study to test the vaccine will begin later this month in 60,000 people. It would be the largest study to date to test a coronavirus vaccine.
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.
J&J said it uses the same technologies for its coronavirus vaccine as it uses for its experimental Ebola vaccine that was made available to people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Genetic material from the coronavirus is combed with a modified adenovirus, which is known to cause colds in humans.
Participants in the Phase 3 study 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. The participants will be accompanied by researchers for more than two years.
Thursday's results follow data released in July that the J&J vaccine protected non-human primates in a preclinical study.