On December 2, 2013, 2-year-old Emile Ouamouno of Guéckédou, Guinea, West Africa – a ball-playing, radio-loving toddler – came down with an unknown illness. After four days of high fever, vomiting and black diarrhea, he passed away. Within a month, his sister, mother and grandmother also died, succumbing to the same illness.
Emile is considered patient zero in the largest and deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. With no licensed vaccine or treatment available, the virus – which is marked by fever, vomiting, diarrhea and hemorrhagic bleeding – spread so rapidly that in August 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak an international health emergency. By the end of the year, Ebola had infected nearly 20,000 people and killed close to 8,000 – including 375 health workers – across Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, devastating already-weak health systems.
On October 22, 2014, in response to the fast-growing global public health crisis, Johnson & Johnson announced that it would quickly mobilize resources and scientific expertise to significantly expand production of a preventive Ebola vaccine program in development at its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies (Janssen). In close collaboration with global health stakeholders such as the WHO, the National Institutes of Health as well as governments, public health authorities and non-governmental organizations, we are working on the clinical testing, development, production and distribution of the vaccine.
“We have an important responsibility as a leading global healthcare company to do all we can to address this urgent unmet medical need," said Alex Gorsky, Chairman and CEO, Johnson & Johnson. Working urgently, Johnson & Johnson committed our vaccine expertise, production capabilities, people and resources to address the Ebola crisis.
The vaccine regimen under development features a prime-boost approach, in which one vector is used to prime and the other to boost the immune response. It has two components: one based on the AdVac® technology from Crucell Holland B.V., one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, and one based on the MVA-BN® technology from Bavarian Nordic, a Denmark-based biotechnology company.
To speed development of the vaccine regimen, Johnson & Johnson announced the formation of consortia with leading global research institutions and non-governmental organizations. The Innovative Medicines Initiative, Europe’s largest biomedical public-private initiative, pledged more than €100 million to support three collaborations, members of which include Janssen, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, University of Oxford, Bavarian Nordic, WorldVision and the Grameen Foundation, among others.
Because every day counts, we are working closely with global health stakeholders to ensure that the vaccine, if successful in trials, is available as quickly as possible. By January 6, 2015, Johnson & Johnson announced that Janssen, in partnership with Bavarian Nordic, had produced more than 400,000 regimens of the prime-boost vaccines for use in large-scale clinical trials. Phase 1, first-in-human trials of the vaccine are underway in the United States and United Kingdom, with additional studies planned in Africa. Two million regimens are projected to be available through the course of 2015, and a projected 5 million regimens could be available if required within 12 to 18 months.
The Johnson & Johnson commitment to stopping the outbreak extends beyond vaccine production and focuses on protecting the frontline workers, families and communities affected by Ebola. In line with our long heritage of global crisis and disaster response, we are supporting Partners in Health, Project HOPE, Direct Relief International, AmeriCares and IntraHealth in their on-the-ground efforts to deliver essential medicines, supplies and personal protective equipment, as well as communicate safety protocols, across the afflicted African countries. Within the United States, we gave an educational grant to Nurse.com, to make continuing education resources on Ebola available to every nurse in the country.
"Patients are at the heart of everything we do. And through unprecedented collaboration among the global health community, our goal is to bring this vaccine to families and frontline health care professionals as fast as possible,” said Paul Stoffels, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer and Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson.
In 2015, the pace of the Ebola outbreak has slowed, but until there are zero cases, there is still a risk that the virus will continue to spread. Johnson & Johnson continues its commitment to utilize our science, technology, innovation and resources, and work with global health partners to help prevent, treat – and ultimately eradicate – this deadly disease, saving lives around the world.
For more information on Johnson & Johnson’s commitment to fight Ebola in 2015, please see here.
NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This article contains "forward-looking statements" as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including regarding product development and production. These statements are based on current expectations of future events. If underlying assumptions prove inaccurate or known or unknown risks or uncertainties materialize, actual results could vary materially from the expectations and projections of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies and/or Johnson & Johnson. Risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to: challenges and uncertainties inherent in product development, including the uncertainties of clinical success and the timeline for the availability of a potential vaccine against Ebola; the challenges and risks involved in large-scale production of a vaccine; and the uncertainty of the level of demand for a vaccine against Ebola. The reader is cautioned not to rely on these forward-looking statements and should review the Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 28, 2014, including in Exhibit 99 thereto, for a further list and description of these risks, uncertainties and other factors. None of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies nor Johnson & Johnson undertake to update any forward-looking statements as a result of new information or future events or developments.