COVID-19 Vaccines to Start Clinical Trials in April, Experts Say

Several vaccines for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) are expected to enter clinical trials as soon as April in China, officials said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Chinese scientists have been racing to develop COVID-19 vaccines based on five approaches, namely: inactivated vaccines, genetic engineering subunit vaccines, adenovirus vector vaccines, nucleic acid vaccines, and vaccines using attenuated influenza virus as vectors, said Wang Junzhi, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Wang noted that vaccine safety has remained a top priority during research and development. So far, most teams are expected to complete preclinical research in April, with some moving forward even faster.

One research team has already begun enrolling volunteers and applied for clinical trials with the National Medical Products Administration. Wang specified that all research and development of COVID-19 vaccines in China has been carried out in a scientific, standardized and orderly way.

Lei Chaozi, an official with the Ministry of Education, said that the flu viral vector-based vaccine is currently being tested on animals and scheduled to apply for human clinical trial by the end of April. This includes the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission who reported a vaccine currently being developed in Shanghai and also expected to enter clinical trials by mid-April.


Animal testing for recombinant protein-based subunit vaccines is also underway. The country is reportedly capable of producing high-quality and high-purity proteins for vaccines on a large scale, according to Lei.

As for nucleic acid-based vaccines, China is stepping up related studies based on past experience combating MERS and will speed up tests for the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.

Some universities and colleges have also isolated neutralizing antibodies against COVID-19 from the blood of recovered patients, which will be able to provide a three-week-long immunity.

The ministry has called on universities and colleges with sufficient resources, including Peking University, Tsinghua University and Xiamen University, as well as scientific research institutions and related enterprises to speed up research on the COVID-19 vaccine since the Chinese Lunar New Year.

According to Lei, vaccine research conducted by Chinese universities and colleges has been pushed forward following regulations and laws as required.

Qin Chuan, a researcher from the Institute of Laboratory Animal Sciences under the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (CAM), said that Chinese researchers have developed animal models including humanized transgenic mouse models and Rhesus monkey models that have helped deepen their understanding of the novel coronavirus.

Animal models help researchers identify transmission routes of the virus, screen possible drugs, and ensure the vaccines are safe and effective.

According to Qin, eight COVID-19 vaccines are currently under evaluation at the CAM and some have already been completed.

Source: xinhua

Editor: Crystal H