Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), one of many companies vying to be fast to market with a coronavirus vaccine, published encouraging results for its candidate on Thursday. In the journal Nature Medicine, it was reported that pre-clinical studies conducted with the company's Ad26.COV2.S on hamsters indicate that it produced neutralizing antibodies and appeared to block the coronvirus from developing severe clinical disease.

The news comes not long after Johnson & Johnson reported that a similar round of testing with primates was effective in keeping coronavirus infection at bay. According to the company, the Syrian golden hamsters used in the other study are more prone to clinical disease than primates.

A coronavirus colony.

Image source: Getty Images.

Although not necessarily considered a leader in the race to get the first coronavirus/COVID-19 vaccine candidate approved for general use, Ad26.COV2.S has a notable advantage over many rivals: It is administered in a single dose, rather than a two-dose combination. In theory, this makes it easier to administer and track.

Johnson & Johnson's candidate could also pull ahead because, like some of the more advanced ones, it is entering phase 3 clinical trials. In mid-August the company announced that Janssen Vaccine Technologies, the subsidiary that is developing Ad26.COV2.S, aimed to begin the study this Saturday, Sept. 5.

In its announcement about the pre-clinical trial's results with the hamsters, Johnson & Johnson said the phase 3 study would begin this month. It did not get more specific.

Perhaps buttressed by the encouraging news, Johnson & Johnson's stock price declined 2.8% on Thursday, a fall that was less steep than that of the S&P 500 index.