DETROIT – Johnson & Johnson is on the forefront of finding a vaccine for COVID-19. Its CEO, Alex Gorsky, took time Wednesday to speak with the Detroit Economic Club about where things stand.
Gorsky is quite excited about the Pfizer announcement, mainly because there is not a competitive issue with COVID-19. It turns out everyone is working together to compete against this disease.
It was back in January, just as COVID first took hold elsewhere, that Johnson & Johnson started working on treatments.
Gorsky couldn’t resist using a Motown metaphor while speaking with the Detroit Economic Club about how Johnson & Johnson are using available data and treatments used for Ebola, Zika and HIV.
“Think of a car being made in Detroit with a B basic chassis," Gorsky said. "We took a different type of interior and started model testing. There are encouraging signs in animals and getting their responses with antibodies.”
One of the other things he pointed out, the pharmaceutical business is doing during this pandemic is taking big chances in order to be ready before a particular treatment is fully vetted.
“Rather than certain things done in series, make a big batch," Gorsky said. "Companies do it at risk knowing it can be safe and effective quantities to be made available that would make a difference.”
Gorsky said one of his biggest concerns is once one of these therapeutics or vaccines is available, is getting it to people who need it. He believes millions of doses will be available by early next year and maybe billions will be available by the end of next year.
The news the vaccine has a 90 percent efficacy meaning those who had two doses of the Pfizer vaccine three weeks apart had 90 percent fewer cases of symptomatic COVID-19 compared to individuals who received the placebo far better than the 50 percent minimum the FDA set.
Meanwhile, the vaccine is one of two m-RNA vaccines currently under investigation, the other is from Moderna. The m-RNA vaccines are the most high tech being tested, using small bits of genetically engineered viral RNA that allow our cells to make the viral spike proteins that we then become immune to.