Johnson & Johnson JNJ,
said Thursday that his leading vaccine candidate in preclinical studies was protected from infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The vaccine delivered a robust immune response, as demonstrated by “neutralizing antibodies,” which successfully prevent subsequent infection and provide complete or almost complete protection in the lungs against the virus in non-human primates, the company said. Based on the strength of the data, a Phase 1 / 2a first-in-human clinical trial of the vaccine candidate Ad26.COV2.S has now started in healthy volunteers in the United States and Belgium, the company said. Discussions are underway with partners aiming to initiate a pivotal Phase 3 clinical trial of the single vaccine dose versus placebo in September, pending interim data from the Phase 1 and 2 studies and regulatory approval, Johnson said & Johnson.