Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) signed a contract to pay Emergent BioSolutions (NYSE:EBS) $135 million to help manufacture its vaccine to treat COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

In addition to developing its own drugs aimed at combating bioterrorism and emerging infectious diseases, including COVID-19, Emergent BioSolutions has a contract manufacturing division that makes drugs for other companies. Last month, the company announced that it was working with Novavax to develop its COVID-19 vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson's vaccine hasn't even entered clinical trials: The study is scheduled to start in September with initial supply for the phase 1 clinical trial to come from Johnson & Johnson's manufacturing facility in Leiden, the Netherlands.

Gloved hands giving an injection into a patient's shoulder

Image source: Getty Images.

But the deal with Emergent BioSolutions is clearly a sign that Johnson & Johnson is trying to get ahead of its goal of having 1 billion doses available. Emergent BioSolutions will begin manufacturing Johnson & Johnson's vaccine this year, well ahead of any potential approval, and Emergent BioSolutions plans to reserve large-scale manufacturing capacity to make the vaccine next year.

Johnson & Johnson noted that the deal with Emergent BioSolutions was just the "first in a series of anticipated strategic collaborations" to meet the global supply of its vaccine.

"We have set a high bar. Johnson & Johnson has committed to rapidly produce and supply more than one billion doses of a safe and effective vaccine globally," said Paul Stoffels, vice chairman of the executive committee and chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson, in a statement.

Perhaps Johnson & Johnson should hit up Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), which has committed its manufacturing capabilities for therapies or vaccines to treat or prevent the disease. Pfizer is also developing a vaccine of its own in conjunction with BioNTech.