CNBC transcript: Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky Speaks with CNBC’s “Squawk Box” today and announces that it’s now selected a lead COVID-19 vaccine candidate
WHEN: Today, Monday, March 30, 2020
WHERE: CNBC’s “Squawk Box”
Johnson & Johnson CEO On How Close Company Is To COVID-19 vaccine
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Welcome back to "Squawk Box" this morning. We have some big news on the fight against the coronavirus. Last hour Johnson & Johnson announcing it’s now selected a lead COVID-19 vaccine candidate and says it expects to begin Phase 1 human clinical trials by September, at the latest. Joining us now is Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky. And we’re thrilled to have him on the program. Alex, thank you for joining us. This is very good news. Tell us about what’s gone into this and why you are so optimistic about it.
ALEX GORSKY: Well, Andrew, and Joe, and Becky, thank you very much for having me on, though it’s always tough to follow Senator Cruz. But, you know, we’re very excited about the announcement that we’re making this morning about the partnership we’re doing with BARTA, which is the government agency responsible for pandemics and vaccines and what we’re doing to accelerate our development but also, our production for something against COVID-19.
And you know, really, this started decades ago. We’ve been working in the immunology field for some time. We’ve been working in areas, for example, like SARS, Ebola, HIV. And I think what gives us confidence is based upon the work that we have done with this COVID-19 vaccine platform, we have very good early indicators that not only can we depend on this to be a safe COVID-19 vaccine base, but also one that will ultimately be effective based on all the early testing and modeling that we’ve been doing
You know, as you mentioned earlier, we expect to begin first human testing in September. But, in parallel, not only do you need a safe and effective vaccine but you also need to have one that can be produced in large volumes. We are going to be doing that at risk simultaneously right here in the United States. And we expect to have results, interim results at least, from our trials likely in December at the latest early January.
That should put us in position early in 2021 to literally have hundreds of millions of doses available and by the end of the year up to 1 billion. That’s our plan. That’s the reason why we’re confident. We understand we have got more testing. We still have a lot more work to do. But this is a bit of a moonshot for J & J, but going forward, it’s one we feel is very important for us to be doing at this point in time.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: So, Alex, in terms, though, of the timeline, the ability to get this into the marketplace, if you will, you’re talking about early 2021 for lots of people to get this. Is that just for special access? Or are you talking really about next summer? What’s that timeline looking like in your mind?
ALEX GORSKY: Sure, Andrew. I don’t mean to sound like an economist, it is going to depend on a few factors. But let me tell you why we’re optimistic. If we have the interim results from clinical trials late this year and let’s just project forward. A time where frankly there still is significant concern about the pandemic as we head into 2021, we will have the ability to work with regulators, to determine, first of all, that we have a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine based on trial results within the first quarter of next year.
And because we will have made the efforts to open up a production facility here in the U.S., to do all the technology transfer that is required, we should also be in a position to have a very significant number of dosages available in that Q1 Q2 period. Now, look, we are going to l have to learn more.
We’ll have to see exactly what our yield is, but we’re very confident in the underlying technology that we have, that we -- that we can have that level of dose ages available and ultimately make the right decision early in 2021 about, you know, what’s in the best public health interest and how we proceed.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Alex, what is this coronavirus vaccine going to cost the consumer, do you imagine? And your stock has moved on this number. Is this going to be profitable for you?
ALEX GORSKY: Well, look, this is about doing right but for global public health. And as we said in our statement, we want our number one concern after bringing it out and demonstrating that it’s safe and effective is to make sure that it’s accessible and affordable on a global level. In fact, we’re taking this step further and we’ll do this on a not for profit basis. We’re working jointly with the government on this where we’ll be putting more than $1 billion worth of investment in terms of the research and development, but also scaling up the production capacity on this. You know, in the very near-term.
And so that is our expectation it’s difficult for me to say an exact price because we still have to determine some of these other factors be. We want to make sure that everyone can get access and that we can do so consistent with what you see other commonly used COVID-19 vaccines for here in our country and around the world.
JOE KERNEN: Hey Alex, you had your economist hat on for a second. Put on your scientist hat for me. Tell me what you’re keying on in terms of basing the coronavirus vaccine on. Is it something on the surface of the virus? Is something that is in the nucleic acids, the RNA itself? And is it -- why are you confident this is conserved? In other words, if there’s mutations, this will be essential to the way the virus works, so it will continue to work, even if there is a mutation.
ALEX GORSKY: Joe, appreciate the question. And let me respond this way. First of all, we have a lot of confidence. Because, you know, when you’re building a vaccine, you’ve got to think about it -- one way to think about it is like a car. And the body of the car, the platform that we’re using is one we have already demonstrated safety and efficacy in things like SARS, which you know as a biologist, is a similar condition or similar science to what we’re seeing with COVID-19. We’ve also used it in older patients for Ebola, for example, in younger patients. And we have seen the safety to be, you know, very consistent.
The next step, of course, is okay, what kind of a motor, what kind of software can we insert into that car that will be effective against COVID-19? What we know about all of the work we’ve done in coronavirus vaccines is the early testing that we’re doing, both in Vivo and in some animal models, tends to be predictive of ultimately what you’re going to see in the human trials itself.
As you know, coronavirus, it’s a tough coronavirus. It’s an RNA virus. So, we’re -- based upon what we’ve seen so far, we think we have the right approach. Obviously, we wouldn’t be taking these other steps if we didn’t feel that way. But we do have to conduct the human trials and we’ll learn more through that process as we go through the fourth quarter of this year.
JOE KERNEN: You can scale up manufacturing quickly and get a lot of it. It’s not like some of the vaccines that are very difficult to make.
ALEX GORSKY: Joe, that’s a great point. And as I’m sure you’re aware, with traditional vaccines, frequently you’re actually working with an egg, like a chicken egg, where you may be able to yield a couple of doses per egg. It has to be done on the surface of a very large vat, and that of course takes time and can result in years of development. What is unique about our approach -- and it’s interesting because actually from a technology, another COVID-19 vaccine platform that we’re going after, initially we didn’t achieve some of our objectives, that frequently happens in investment, and research and development. But the production capability, it’s called PER. C6, and basically what that does, instead of having to use an egg or instead of having to have it on the surface, this can be done where it’s very -- in an intense environment.
So, think of a thousand-liter beaker, where these proteins can be harvested. They don’t need to be on the surface. And so, we can get high yield. So, for example, in a 1,000-liter beaker, we’re getting yields of hundreds of millions of coronavirus vaccines. And that, of course, is what gives us the confidence that not only will we have a vaccine that works but we can produce it in the kinds of volumes that are really going make the difference and frankly tamp down the curve and, you know, eventually prevent this virus from happening in the first place.
BECKY QUICK: Alex, that’s kind of related to my question. I know you that guys are taking what would normally take five to six years and compressing it into five to six months. I’m just wondering, is that because technology is advancing so quickly? Is that because you’re pouring a billion dollars’ worth of resources into it or because the FDA is relaxing some of its guidelines? What gets you to that point?
ALEX GORSKY: You know, Becky, it’s all of the above it starts with -- huge thank you to Dr. Paul Stoffels, Dr. Johan Van Hoof, people who have poured, you know, a good chunk of their careers into understanding infectious disease and conditions like this. They have literally been working 24/7 to identify, you know, how do we, first of all, put this through the most rigorous tests that are going to give us the signal that indicates it.
And we quickly went through our library, and that’s where now we have focused on this one particular vector that we’re highly confident in. Simultaneously, we’ve been working on all the technology transfer, the production ramp-up. So, another shout out to our global supply chain colleagues who have been working around-the-clock to say how can we do this and how can we do this in the United States, even though that’s not where the original technology was developed? How can we bring it to a level that we can scale up, not compromise at all in regarding safety and quality but do it in the right way? So, all those factors.
Then, of course, the partnership with the United States and I want to thank the government, BARTA, the work they’ve been doing, HHS, also the FDA, they work closely with us. If you do an interim analysis statistically, how can we accelerate that? Again, making sure we’re getting all the information that we need, but also recognize frankly the situation that we’re in around the world.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Alex, we want to thank you for joining us this morning. We want to wish you well. Your success will be the world’s success, and we appreciate you joining us this morning.
ALEX GORSKY: Andrew, Joe, thank you. Look, biology started this, biology and pharmacology will be a big part of winning this in the end, and we are absolutely committed to making that happen. Thank you, guys.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Okay. Alex Gorsky from J&J. We appreciate it. We’ll be back tomorrow. CNBC’s special coverage continues right now.
The post J&J CEO announces a lead COVID-19 vaccine candidate appeared first on ValueWalk.
Avricore Health Signs Master Agreement to Pilot HEALTHTAB™ Platform For Diabetes Management in Select Shoppers Drug Mart® Pharmacies
Avricore Health (AVCR) announces that patients will soon have access to its innovative point-of-care blood screening and health-data management platform, HealthTab™…
“Next Level Dystopian Sh*t”: Amazon Rolls Out Portable Panic Booth For Warehouse Employees To Collect Themselves
"Next Level Dystopian Sh*t": Amazon Rolls Out Portable Panic Booth For Warehouse Employees To Collect Themselves
After years of reports of Amazon warehouse employees being forced to urinate in bottles, forego medical care, and work through…
After years of reports of Amazon warehouse employees being forced to urinate in bottles, forego medical care, and work through injuries - causing hundreds to launch petitions and revolt, the online retail giant has come up with a solution...
...a special sensory deprivation booth that allows stressed out employees to collect themselves before heading back out to the floor.
Known simply as the “ZenBooth,” the new apparatus, according to a video released by the company on Wednesday, is an “interactive kiosk where you can navigate through a library of mental health and mindful practices to recharge that internal battery.” -daily dot
Amazon's Leila Brown used her background in sports medicine and her passion in alternative therapies to create a space where our employees could focus on their mental well-being. https://t.co/bvk2bw9Lke pic.twitter.com/cEQhsTH0Od— Amazon News (@amazonnews) May 26, 2021
The "ZenBooth" is part of Amazon's WorkingWell program, which allows employees to "recharge and reenergize" with a series of "physical and mental activities, wellness exercises, and healthy eating support."
The panic booth features a small fan, some plants, and a library of meditation videos. Hopefully it features a toilet too.
(Did we mention most COVID-19 transmission occurs via aerosolized particles hanging in the air, particularly in poorly ventilated spaces?)
As the daily dot notes, the announcement received lots of pushback from Twitter users.
"why not just improve working conditions?" said one user.
"Or you could pay your employees well, not treat them like garbage, and accept unionization," added another.
"This is some next level dystopian shit. Maybe just pay people more and let them have bathroom breaks," read yet another tweet.
This is some next level dystopian shit. Maybe just pay people more and let them have bathroom breaks— katie ???? ???? (@Ah_occ_o) May 27, 2021
At least this is a step up from their now-abandoned, patented 'worker cages.'
Avricore Health’s CEO Discusses Abbott Diagnostics and Rapid COVID-19 Testing Rollout
Hector Bremner, CEO of Avricore Health Inc. (AVCR:CSE & AVCRF:OTC) Explains How HealthTab works with Abbott’s IDNow for Rapid COVID-19 testing
The following is an interview with Hector Bremner, CEO of Avricore Health Inc. (AVCR:CSE & AVCRF:OTC)
Avricore Health Inc. (AVCR) has been generating a lot of interest and excitement recently on the news of a partnership with U.S. health giant Abbott Laboratories and sizeable financings. In an exclusive interview, Avricore CEO Hector Bremner explains the upside at the Vancouver-based company.
Corona Stocks: Investors have zeroed in on your relationship with Abbott Diagnostics. Can you explain how you are well positioned to assist in Canada’s COVID-19 response?
Hector Bremner: For us it is huge. Abbott’s commitment to human health and point of care is by far second to none. Abbott is as equally focused on pharmacy as us and we have been really grateful to their team, we work quite closely right now and we think that relationship is going to mature over this year. Their device offerings have been fantastic and offer us the type of product offerings that we think fit pharmacy, particularly with the Afinion 2 which is the device that this quarter people will read and see a bit about from us. The Afinion 2 is a blood chemistry device, uses a very small sample, it is right there in the pharmacy. The test is conducted right there and it is screening for diabetes, conducting an A1C test and also testing lipids. So we think that the relationship with Abbott has been really tremendous. It is a really powerful partnership. We have this totally unique service that really brings the devices to life.
Corona Stocks: There was a disclosure that you are meeting with federal health officials along with Abbott and you are together seeking a federal government contract to create a platform using Abbott’s ID Now molecular testing device and Avicore’s HealthTab to test patients for COVID-19. The platform would use Avicore’s software to automatically report results from Abbott’s ID Now, presumably to government health authorities. Can you share any details on that?
Hector Bremner: We are actively pursuing conversations at all levels of government as we think HealthTab is missing piece to a truly successful rapid testing program and this is going very well. And, thankfully in the past few weeks, the focus of the conversation in the media and in government announcements has been moving positively towards rapid testing again. Up until very, very recently rapid testing has been seen as not as important as [getting vaccines]. Now everyone is stepping back and realizing that we are better off using these rapid tests as a way of getting a better line of sight as to what we are actually fighting, and quarantining, containing the virus into areas, really getting on top of it. You can’t fight something when you are in the dark.
Corona Stocks: What role would you play in this effort?
Hector Bremner: Fundamentally, we are a data generating and reporting platform, so that means using HealthTab to better track test results being done with rapid tests. There have several stories lately showing that much of the tests purchased by government have not been deployed. We are also hearing that tests are ending up on the black market. And, what is used, has created a lot of labor and questions about who and how to report this information to. So, HealthTab can automate a great deal of the labor and workflow and ensure timely disclosures and increase people’s confidence in these testing programs overall.
Corona Stocks: More testing will likely mean more cases, correct?
Hector Bremner: Yes, there was even a study this weekend that current estimates are that there are many times more cases than are ever announced at any time due to the lack of testing. We think rapid testing in 2021 and 2022 is going to play a critical role. And going forward for travel, and for certain workplaces and major events, having a real-time rapid reporting system in place to watch for virus outbreaks is something that is going to be part of the 21st century. This isn’t the first major virus outbreak over the last 20 years, it certainly has been the most impactful. We are seeing these viruses mutate very rapidly. The vaccine will get out there but we will be living with virus outbreaks. We have an incredible number of humans on the planet and they are very mobile and traveling all over the place, interacting with each other. The reality is we need to be very, very vigilant and we can’t let this happen again. Testing and real-time reporting is critical to this.
“Rapid testing, and having real-time reporting of [virus outbreaks], and breaking down the silos of communication, which is what HealthTab does, that is going to be critical to maintaining and avoiding future shutdowns.”
Corona Stocks: COVID-19 made for a crazy year for markets, but is a net positive for Avricore, correct?
Hector Bremner: It certainly opened up a business line that didn’t exist in the sense that viral testing – our platform is really fantastic for rapid response and getting real time eyes on the pandemic. We are still in those conversations and we are very bullish on where they are going. Canada in particular hasn’t been as progressive on the rapid testing front as other jurisdictions.
This said, we are making great strides in advancing our blood screening of diabetes and heart disease in pharmacy, and this demonstrates that while we can operate and succeed in today’s environment, we are going to excel beyond it.
Corona Stocks: It also seems given vaccine shortages becoming political dynamite, that governments are very motivated to be seen doing something positive?
Hector Bremner: I think so. We don’t want to do this again. This is a very costly endeavor and I am confident that the economy is going to rebound very quickly when we reopen and the fundamentals are still strong. But the reality is we got to this situation and after Bird Flu, Swine Flu, all of these outbreaks were contained and we were not vigilant, we were not taking them seriously. We need to ensure the infrastructure is there to monitor and respond quickly. We also need a healthcare approach of proactiveness. We offer an important tools in these efforts.
And it’s not just viruses, it’s the big costly killers like diabetes and heart disease that need more screening and monitoring. These issues are linked, and the expenses and deaths associated with them are avoidable. That’s our responsibility today, to act now and make tomorrow safer and healthier.
Corona Stocks: You already have Ontario pharmacy operators endorsing HealthTab, what support do you see coming from the health care industry this year?
Hector Bremner: Pharmacists recognize that they need to change their scope of practice. The future looks like point of care technology and cognitive services. We provide that platform so they are really leaning in on that. We know the patient has also made that decision. Good examples are 23andMe and Ancestry and health apps. With HealthTab and their community pharmacist, patients can take direct control and don’t have to spend huge amount so time to find out what they can now find out in minutes. They can walk in and learn if they have diabetes or if they already have it work with their pharmacists to manage it better. And the drug companies have already been going towards real-world evaluation and modifying the way they are doing studies to lower studies, which HealthTab facilitates in some really powerful ways.
All the players are making the decisions and right now the process is being adopted. Over the course of this year people are going to see from us that major pharmacy groups are really leaning in on the (HealthTab) system, they are going to be see drug makers and private players like insurance companies really leaning in on using our platform and trying to engage their customers better and also enhance their own operation.
Corona Stocks: Is there a competitor to HealthTab in the market?
Hector Bremner: Not directly, everybody is sort of adjacent to us. There are a million and one health dashboard apps, as I call them, that seek to be a digital interface for healthcare. But they are limited in terms of plug-ins and who can connect to them, which reduces their true effectiveness. There are also B2B enterprise solutions, and there are some device specific solutions, but again we are so successful is that we bring the patient, healthcare team, and researcher together by acting as a middleware, allowing for other technologies to be enhanced by the data we are able to generate and share.
So, our approach is entirely unique, and while someone else might have something similar, we have solved the shortcomings out there and will win the sector. It’s kind how Facebook overtook Myspace, both may seem similar, but won was just built better and put the focus on the user experience. That is what we are doing with HealthTab.
Corona Stocks: You are raising a lot of money, $3 million in the last few months. What is the reasoning behind that?
Hector Bremner: When you are running a public company, you are actually running two businesses as the same time. You are running the actual business where you are expected to be a subject matter expert and that is more than enough to fill your day. Then you have the market side of your business which is a whole other universe of activities. We did not want to head into this year, given our very full business development hopper, being split in our focus.
So late last year and into January-February we wanted to make sure we were fully capitalized, we will be debt free at the close of this current round and we will have sufficient capital to roll out what we plan to this year. As much of a dumpster fire that 2020 was, Avricore had a 10X year and we’re going to have another one. We think that we have got a lot of wind at our backs.
Corona Stocks: With your government background, coming to Avricore a year ago, it seems like the company is much more focused today on delivering the promise of HealthTab and playing a key role in fighting COVID-19.
Hector Bremner: My career has largely been in strategic communications and turning things around. We were no doubt in a tough situation when I first got involved, however we’ve done the hard work and sacrifices it takes to succeed and today, we are much more focused.
We fundamentally believe that all the sacrifices, all the hard work, were worth it because HealthTab is just that important. This team has done so much. Roger Seccombe, who developed HealthTab, our CTO, and everybody involved, they have all leaned in and made a lot of sacrifices, especially last year.
Today, we are getting to a place where other people are starting to now see it too and we are really excited. There are big things to come.
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