J&J tracks the path to a COVID-19 vaccine in new online news series

What will it take to develop a vaccine for COVID-19? Johnson & Johnson is taking viewers behind the scenes with an original online video series. Beginning Tuesday, producer and journalist Lisa Ling will host a program titled, “The Road to a Vaccine." Each 30-minute show will air live online on Tuesdays on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and JNJ.com.

Over the next eight weeks, Ling will interview experts from J&J, including chief scientific officer Paul Stoffels, along with public health experts, scientists and frontline healthcare workers. The show will cover the behind-the-scenes scientific efforts in the lab—how a vaccine is being made and what can be expected—as well as efforts to end the outbreak from public health and local community personnel around the world.

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While J&J created the series, the program will show efforts from the entire global scientific community which includes J&J and its partners, said Michael Sneed, J&J executive VP, global corporate affairs and chief communications officer, in an email interview.

"While we may not have all the answers right now, we feel it’s our obligation to do our part to help educate a global audience through this series during such an unprecedented time, as we all try to navigate and hopefully eradicate COVID-19," he said. "The series is a first-of-its-kind for Johnson & Johnson, and I believe the broader industry, as pharmaceutical development is not usually synonymous with a social-first, digital content series."

The weekly live stream, and online archive at jnj.com/roadtoavaccine, allows for most recent data and information to be discussed and gives access to viewers whenever they want it, he said. Each episode will conclude with tributes to the healthcare professionals and frontline workers who are treating, curing and caring for patients.

Ling is being paid as host of the show, but she said through J&J that she signed on to the series "because of her interest in informing the public and those at home watching with the latest breaking news."

J&J recently unveiled a lead COVID-19 vaccine candidate along with a $1 billion commitment in partnership with the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to develop it. The company plans to have a vaccine in clinical trials by September, win emergency use by early next year and add manufacturing capacity to produce more than one billion doses.

J&J is one of several drugmakers, including Moderna, Inovio, Pfizer and Sanofi, that are advancing COVID-19 candidates. Experts say it's possible that multiple vaccines against COVID-19 could be available on a limited basis by this time next year.

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The World Health Organization Monday announced its coordination of an international group of more than 120 scientists, physicians, public health and manufacturing experts—including those from J&J, Sanofi, Altimmune, Moderna, Inovio and CureVac—to help speed the availability of a vaccine for COVID-19.