According to the latest news from Science and Technology Daily (April 14th), two COVID-19 inactivated vaccines were just approved for a phase I & II combined clinical trial by the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) of China, making them the first batch in this category. The two vaccines were developed respectively by Wuhan Institute of Biological Products Co., Ltd of Sinopharm and Sinovac Research & Development Co., Ltd together with research institutes.
This is another piece of good news since the team of Chen Wei, academician at China Academy of Engineering and researcher at Academy of Military Medical Sciences, managed to get clinical trial approval for the recombinant COVID-19 vaccine they developed on March 17th.
"We are taking the lead in developing COVID-19 vaccines in a global perspective," said with pride by Wang Junzhi, academician at China Academy of Engineering. Then he proposed four factors for this achievement: early start, accurate direction, being science-based and collaboration from all parts.
Vaccine is not a distant solution for a current emergency, but rather the most powerful weapon to defeat COVID-19.
China made the decision to accelerate the pace based on rational judgement and organization with the premise of safety assurance. As early on January 21st, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) announced the establishment of an expert group of joint epidemic prevention and control against COVID-19. The expert group was led by Zhong Nanshan, academician at China Academy of Engineering, and consisted of 14 experts. On 22nd, the first eight emergency programs of Scientific Response to COVID-19 were initiated swiftly.
The expert group had decided on five directions for vaccine development: inactivated vaccines, genetic engineering subunit vaccines, adenovirus vector vaccines, nucleic acid vaccines, and vaccines using attenuated influenza virus as vectors. All five directions were to be followed at the same time. Eight teams of advantage in vaccine development were singled out to collaborate on this mission with a detailed plan of work nodes accurate to the day.
Thanks to Chen Wei's accurate judgement and accumulation of knowledge and experience in vaccine development, her team was the first to reach breakthrough achievements. In early February, she suggested that COVID-19 remains a coronavirus despite its possible variation. Therefore, mutual target antigen, pathogenesis and receptor could be identified quickly with the help of bioinfomatics and big data mining once the variation appears. And the vaccine development can be improved swiftly accordingly.
Since the start of the program, Chen Wei's team has conducted research on recombinant COVID-19 vaccine (adenovirus vector vaccine) based on the successful experience in Ebola vaccine development with great speed. On March 17th, the team's recombinant COVID-19 vaccine was approved for clinical trial, which took place one month in advance than expected. By April 2nd, all 108 subjects of phase I clinical trial in Wuhan had been inoculated. On 9th, phase II clinical trial, which has a larger scale and introduces placebo control groups, started recruitment for volunteers.
Meanwhile, all other directions have also made progress.
Lei Chaozi, head of Department of Science and Technology of the Ministry of Education, introduced the current achievements: research on the safety and validity of experimental animal for attenuated influenza vector vaccine is ongoing and pre clinical trial research for vaccine candidates and application for clinical trial are expected by the end of April; animal experiments on mice and rabbits regarding recombinant protein vaccine are being conducted and the technology of large-scale production of vaccine with high quality and purity has been mastered; nucleic acid vaccine development is a new technology being explored by the whole world, but no such vaccine has entered the market yet.
At the same time, Wang Junzhi specifically emphasized the safety issue of the vaccine: "On the one hand, Chinese scientists seek to make full use of time with great effort. On the other hand, they conduct research under scientific laws and ensure the safety and validity of the vaccine. All research and development activities are in accordance with corresponding regulations and technological requirements."