Two New Coronavirus Vaccines Enter Human Trials in China

by Rajaneesh K. Gopinath
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By Rajaneesh K. Gopinath, Ph.D., & Ray Jhang

Following the announcement that Chinese vaccine manufacturers have become the world’s first to proceed to Phase 2 clinical trials, Xinhua News agency now reports the approval of two more inactivated vaccines against COVID-19 to enter human testing. China now leads other countries with the most number of vaccine candidates.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in over 161,000 deaths worldwide, as per current statistics. With vaccines, antivirals, and repurposed drugs still under development, this dismal trend is expected to continue for some time. Although some top nations have been guilty of underperformance in terms of prevention, they have begun to rely on their broad research infrastructure to explore disease treatments. Researchers are also specifically interested in studying antibodies of survivors with healthcare systems considering convalescent plasma therapy as an option.

Several countries have initiated vaccine trials in humans with the hope of creating a potent vaccine. Cutting edge technologies like DNA vaccines are also being tested pre-clinically. Since the origin of the outbreak in Wuhan, Chinese researchers have been investigating the virus and gathering information in several ways. Xinhua News, the official state-run press agency, reports that China adopts five technological approaches for developing vaccines. They include inactivated vaccines, recombinant protein vaccines, adenovirus vector vaccines, nucleic acid vaccines and vaccines using attenuated influenza viruses as vectors.

Among them, two inactivated vaccine candidates have now received approval for human trials, according to the joint prevention and control mechanism of the State Council. One is developed by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, a subsidiary under the China National Pharmaceutical Group, Sinopharm, which has allocated one billion Chinese yuan (142 million US dollars) to develop vaccines against SARS CoV-2. The other is developed by Beijing-based, Sinovac Research and Development Co. Ltd., a company that has forged collaborations with numerous research institutes. Sinovac’s vaccine has displayed good cross-neutralization to different COVID-19 strains found within and outside of China. Earlier, a recombinant adenovirus vector vaccine developed by CanSino Biologics in collaboration with the Academy of Military Medical Sciences was subjected to early trials on March 16. It has now proceeded to Phase 2 trials, making it the first in the world to reach that stage.

Healthcare workers and researchers around the world are working hard with the single goal of protecting people from COVID-19. This makes cooperation beyond borders, all the more important. As reported by GeneOnline throughout the past few months, there have been numerous collaborations between biopharma and national research institutes in Asia. Though the first large scale human trial of the vaccine is anticipated in fall this year, the collective endeavor across the world instills hope and optimism.

Related article: COVID-19 Vaccine: Moderna Gets $483M Funding Boost from BARDA



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