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Johnson & Johnson Expands Pact With U.S. Government to Seek a Treatment for COVID-19

By Brian Orelli, PhD – Feb 18, 2020 at 12:00PM

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The government is also supporting the pharmaceutical giant's efforts to find a vaccine for the coronavirus.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ 0.33%) and the federal government are expanding their research partnership relating to COVID-19. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) was already supporting Johnson & Johnson's efforts to find a vaccine that could protect people from the coronavirus. Now, it will also support the company's attempt to develop antiviral medications that could help people already infected with it.

The company's Janssen Pharmaceutical subsidiary already has a library of antiviral compounds that it can screen to see if they could potentially be active against COVID-19. Janssen is partnering with Rega Institute for Medical Research in Belgium to perform the screening.

People in the sidewalk with face masks on

Image source: Getty Images.

Janssen and BARDA will split the cost of research and development for the project, although no specific financial terms of the deal were disclosed. Johnson & Johnson had already announced a few weeks ago that it was planning on screening the library, so any extra government funding for the effort will be a bonus.

Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 efforts trail those of Gilead Sciences (GILD -1.43%), which has already started testing its antiviral remdesivir in patients with initial signs of success. Gilead was able to move the drug into human trials quickly because it had already been tested in Ebola patients, although it didn't work against that virus.

In addition to its efforts to discover an antiviral treatment and a vaccine, Johnson & Johnson has also donated its HIV drug Prezcobix to researchers in China to see if the protease inhibitor in the medication could have an antiviral effect against COVID-19. Protease inhibitors have previously been shown to have some efficacy against SARS, a respiratory disease caused by a different coronavirus.

Brian Orelli has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Gilead Sciences. The Motley Fool recommends Johnson & Johnson. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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