China racing to patent world’s first COVID-19 vaccine

China is moving at warp speed to nab the crown for the first country to find a vaccine for coronavirus. It now claims bragging rights for being the first country with an inactivated vaccine candidate that is proceeding to phase III human trials.

It is the first vaccine of its kind to reach a late-stage, mass-scale human trial, according to China National Biotec Group Co. (CNBC).

The world has been desperate for a cure since the respiratory illness originated in Wuhan, China late last year. Coronavirus cases rose to 9.6 million on Friday, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. The number of deaths climbed to 489,556, while the number of people who have recovered reached 4.8 million.

With five Phase II test projects, and several scientific publications, China claims it is leading the race to develop a vaccine against coronavirus.

There were 13 experimental vaccines in clinical trials and another 129 in the preclinical evaluation stage on June 22, according to the World Health Organisation’s data on COVID-19 vaccines. On June 12, there were 10 in advanced clinical trials and 115 in preclinical evaluation stages.

CNBC gained approval to collaborate with an Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence and cloud computing company, G42 for a large-scale Phase III clinical trial of its novel coronavirus candidate in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The company spearheaded the launching ceremony of Sinopharm China National New Crown Inactivated Vaccine International Clinical (Phase III) simultaneously in Beijing, Wuhan City, and Abu Dhabi in the UAE.

The AZD1222 vaccine candidate, created by researchers from the University of Oxford and biotech company AstraZeneca, entered concurrent Phase II and III trials in the United Kingdom in late May.

The ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine, which has been licenced to AstraZeneca, will be given to 10,260 adults and children in the UK this summer.

CNBC is closely eyeing US based biotech company Moderna, which is working with the National Institutes of Health. China’s vaccine candidate was developed with CanSino laboratory and began testing on humans in Wuhan on March 16, the same day that Moderna began human testing in Seattle.

Moderna’s vaccine was among the first to be tested in humans in the United States. It produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers last month.

The biotech company is preparing to begin the final stages of testing in July to evaluate the vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing coronavirus in around 30,000 adult trial participants.

China has an interesting storyline for its vaccine journey: “It all began in Wuhan, a week after the quarantine of the metropolis of central China: Chen Wei, general major of the People’s Liberation Army, head of the Institute of Bioengineering of the Academy of Military Medicine, was sent to head the P4 laboratory, the highest level of security, to develop a vaccine as soon as possible. With her experience in developing a nasal spray protecting from SARS in 2003, and in the fight against Ebola in Africa, she is described as “a goddess of war,” according to China’s state-owned media.

The inactivated vaccine, developed by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products under CNBG, has already been tested on about 2,000 people in Phase I and Phase II trials in China.

Other companies in China seeking to trial their vaccines abroad include Clover Biopharmaceuticals and Sinovac Biotech, which is expected to commence its Phase III trial in Brazil, with about 9,000 volunteers.