J&J's Janssen strikes four-year, $28.5M government partnership to advance Ebola vaccine

While the most recent Ebola epidemic has been in decline, that doesn't mean that vaccine development has to wind down, too. Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Janssen struck a four-year, $28.5 million government partnership to further the development of the Ebola jab on which Janssen is collaborating with Bavarian Nordic. Janssen awarded Bavarian Nordic $9 million in a subcontract, the latter announced Tuesday.

The agreement is with the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. The ASPR's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) will manage the deal.

"History has shown that Ebola doesn't really disappear--there have been roughly 35 outbreaks in the past forty years--so we need to be fully prepared for the future with licensed vaccines and therapies for this disease," said Robin Robinson, director of BARDA, in a statement. "By pursuing multiple Ebola vaccines and leveraging innovative technology, we can address biodefense needs here in the United States while spurring affordable options for global use."

The agreement will support manufacturing development of the two-dose, prime-boost regimen, including process optimization, validation of manufacturing processes, stability studies, fill-finish manufacturing and technology transfer between the companies, BARDA said in the statement. Janssen makes the prime vaccine and Bavarian Nordic makes the booster. The contract can be extended to a total of 7 years and approximately $69 million, according to the statement.

The duo brought their candidate to Phase I in January this year, the third investigational Ebola vaccine to come to trial. Most recently, they announced that they would take their candidate to the U.K. and France for Phase II.

Several companies jumped into the race to bring an Ebola jab to market when the disease hit West Africa last year. Among them are Merck ($MRK) and NewLink ($NLNK), whose candidate reported 100% efficacy in a Phase III "ring trial" in Guinea this July. GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Emergent BioSolutions ($EBS) are also working on a prime-boost regimen, which is currently in Phase II.

- here's the BARDA release
- read Bavarian Nordic's release

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