As of this morning - Tuesday 31st March - the current recorded case count for COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the UK has hit 22,141, with 1,408 deaths.

Johnson & Johnson is the latest pharma giant to give an update, revealing the selection of a lead COVID-19 vaccine candidate from constructs it has been working on since January 2020.

The company has also announced rapid scaling of its manufacturing capacity, with the goal of providing global supply of more than one billion doses of a vaccine in partnership with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

Together, the entities are committing to give more than $1 billion to novel vaccine research and development, with J&J expecting to initiate a Phase I clinical study in September 2020.

Further, the company anticipates the first batches of a COVID-19 vaccine could be available for emergency use authorisation in early 2021, a substantially accelerated timeframe in comparison to the typical vaccine development process.

“The world is facing an urgent public health crisis and we are committed to doing our part to make a COVID-19 vaccine available and affordable globally as quickly as possible” commented Alex Gorsky, chairman and chief executive officer. “As the world’s largest healthcare company, we feel a deep responsibility to improve the health of people around the world every day. Johnson & Johnson is well positioned through our combination of scientific expertise, operational scale and financial strength to bring our resources in collaboration with others to accelerate the fight against this pandemic.”

In addition to J&J, Synairgen, the respiratory drug discovery and development company, has announced that it has commenced dosing COVID-19 patients in its trial of SNG001.

The business also revealed that the first patient has been dosed at the initial trial site - University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust - and that it has initiated a further six trial sites which are expected to start dosing in the coming days.

Sense Biodetection has also pitched in, announcing an accelerated programme to launch the world’s first instrument-free, point-of-care molecular diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2. The company is partnering closely with Phillips-Medisize, a Molex company and leading global medical device innovator, developer and manufacturer, to scale-up production of its test in order to meet the growing demand for rapid diagnostics.

Another UK-based business, Cobra Biologics, has added that it is working as part of a consortium led by the Jenner Institute, Oxford University to rapidly develop, scale-up and produce the potential adenoviral vaccine candidate, ChAdOx1 nCov-19.

ChAdOx1, is one of five frontrunner vaccines in development around the world, and expected to be the UK’s first COVID-19 vaccine. Developed at the Jenner Institute, it is one of the most promising vaccine technologies for COVID-19 as it can generate a strong immune response from one dose. The vaccine candidate allows it to be given safely to vulnerable members of the public, including children, the elderly and those with a pre-existing condition, such as diabetes.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) urges the public to stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, with information available through your national and local public health authority.

Wash your hands frequently:

Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

Maintain social distancing:

Maintain at least one metre (three feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early:

Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.