Having shut down its own COVID-19 vaccine development program earlier this year, Merck will now help produce drug substance, formulate and fill vials of the J&J vaccine. The vaccine received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA at the weekend.
US President Joe Biden announced the partnership on Tuesday (March 2), pledging that the country will have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May. Merck will receive up to $268.8m from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to adapt two of its manufacturing facilities for COVID-19 vaccines and medicines.
“Two of the largest healthcare and pharmaceutical companies in the world — that are usually competitors — are working together on the vaccine,” said President Biden. “Johnson & Johnson and Merck will work together to expand the production of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. This is the type of collaboration between companies we saw in World War Two.
“We also invoked the Defense Production Act to equip two Merck facilities to the standards necessary to safely manufacture the J&J vaccine. And with the urging and assistance of my administration, Johnson & Johnson is also taking additional new actions to safely accelerate vaccine production. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine manufacturing facilities will now begin to operate 24/7.
“In addition, we’ll continue to use the Defense Production Act to expedite critical materials in vaccine production, such as equipment, machinery, and supplies.”
In a similar European collaboration, French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi will help produce the J&J vaccine from its Marcy l’Etoile facility in France: producing around 12 million doses a month. The vaccine is currently being assessed by the European Medicines Agency.