BEIJING • CanSino Biologics Inc said it has received Chinese regulatory approval to start human trials of a vaccine against the coronavirus, another example of a potential weapon against the illness being fast-tracked for testing as the global death toll escalates and nations impose lockdowns.
The vaccine, co-developed by the Hong Kong-listed firm and China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences, will undergo clinical trials in Wuhan, CanSino Biologics said in a statement yesterday.
Progress is occurring at unprecedented speed in developing coronavirus vaccines, as the highly infectious pathogen looks unlikely to be stamped out through containment measures alone.
US President Donald Trump’s administration is pressuring American pharmaceuticals to develop a vaccine: Massachusetts-based Moderna Inc received approval to move quickly to human trials last week, skipping the years of animal trials that are the norm.
“You are planning on administering it to a healthy person who may or may not ever be exposed to the infectious disease agent you are trying to protect them against,” Dr Rajeev Venkayya, president of the global vaccine unit at Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical, said on Tuesday. “There is very little margin for a safety problem.”
CanSino’s trial involves injecting the experimental vaccine into 108 healthy adults, aged 18 to 60, in three different doses, according to data from the Chinese Clinical Trial Registry. Tests will start this month and continue through year’s end. The vaccine was tested on animals and proven safe and capable of eliciting immunity against the virus, CanSino said.
As the outbreak spread around the world, more than 100 clinical trials were launched in China to study the effectiveness of everything from anti-flu drugs to traditional Chinese herbal medicine. A smaller number of trials has been announced in countries including the US, South Korea and Thailand.
A vaccine normally takes years to reach human clinical trials as scientists have to conduct substantial amounts of animal testing before drug regulators give the green light for further trials on humans.
GlaxoSmithKline said last month that it was working with China-based Clover Biopharmaceuticals on an experimental vaccine. The US government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority is working with Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson.
Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group also licensed a vaccine now being developed at the pre-clinical stage by Germany-based BioNTech.
Despite the rapid introduction of human trials, the earliest available vaccine is at least six months away, the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has said.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it would take about 11/2 years to complete trials, scale up production and make a vaccine widely available.