Johnson & Johnson signed a $1 billion deal to supply the U.S. with 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine. The company, which employs 1,500 people in Orange County, plans to expand Irvine operations by 30%.

Leading the race for a vaccine

by TOM BERG

Health care giant Johnson & Johnson, with offices in Irvine, has announced a $1 billion deal to supply the U.S. government with 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

The vaccine is expected to go into Phase 3 clinical trials this month and be available for use in 2021.

“We have a 134-year legacy of leading and learning in times of great challenge,” a company spokesman said. “And we are well suited to prevent, treat and ultimately help eradicate this pandemic.”

Johnson & Johnson is pursuing both a single-dose vaccine for immediate protection during the current outbreak and a two-dose regimen for long-term protection aimed at high-risk groups such as health care providers.

Preclinical data published in the journal Nature demonstrated that the vaccine was successful in preventing subsequent infection and provided complete protection in the lungs from the virus.

Johnson & Johnson, which ranks 35th on the Fortune 500 list, employs more than 1,500 people in Orange County, mostly in Irvine.

At home in Irvine

“It’s the perfect environment as a rapidly emerging hub for innovation and technology,” said the company’s group chairman, Shlomi Nachman. “It’s also a place where people love to live, raise families and enjoy all that California has to offer. We consider Irvine our home.”

Johnson & Johnson is one of 900 medical and technology firms in Irvine, which has become a world leader in health and life-science research.

The company’s Orange County operations have doubled in the last five years, with plans to expand by another 30%.

“To do that, we are looking to hire from and partner with the best and brightest minds and organizations in the world,” Nachman said. “California, and Irvine specifically, is a hub for some of the world’s leading universities, technical talent and research institutes. We have a close relationship with UCI, for example, and greatly value the thinking their graduates bring to our businesses.”