Johnson & Johnson starts human trials of potential COVID-19 vaccine

Johnson & Johnson said on Wednesday it would start human trials of its potential COVID-19 vaccine in the second half of July, two months earlier than planned, as drugmakers race to develop a shot for the deadly respiratory disease.

The company has already signed deals with the U.S. government to create enough manufacturing capacity to produce more than 1 billion doses of its vaccine through 2021.

J&J’s study will test the vaccine against a placebo and assess the shot’s safety and immune response in 1,045 healthy people aged 18 to 55 years, as well as those 65 years and older. The trial will take place in the United States and Belgium.

U.S. biotech Moderna Inc is at the forefront of COVID-19 vaccine development and has started testing its candidate in a mid-stage trial that will enroll 600 patients. The company expects to begin late-stage trials in July.