XI JINPING SEEKS VICTORY OVER TRUMP IN RACE FOR A COVID-19 VACCINE
BEIJING: President Xi Jinping‘s government is throwing the might of the Chinese state behind the country’s vaccine developers as the world races to make a shot against the coronavirus.
The sheer scale and speed of China’s effort ratchets up pressure on the US, where President Donald Trump‘s administration has launched a program called Operation Warp Speed to accelerate vaccine research and development. Xi has promised to share any successful vaccine globally, and the Chinese president would wield immense geopolitical clout if his country produces one of the world’s first working shots.
In total, five vaccines developed by Chinese companies are being tested on humans, the most in any country. Beijing has mobilized its health authorities, drug regulators and research institutes to work around the clock with local companies. Communist Party leaders are overseeing some vaccine trials. Government and private equity money has gone into companies like Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech Ltd., which in May began the second stage of testing for its vaccine.
中国公司研发的疫苗总共有五种，正在进行人体试验，这在所有国家中最多。 北京已动员其卫生部门，药品监管机构和研究机构与当地公司夜以继日地进行合作。国家领导人正在监督一些疫苗试验。 政府和私人股本资金已经投入了众多公司，如位于北京的科兴控股生物技术有限公司，该公司于5月开始了第二阶段的疫苗测试。
The Chinese efforts were on show late Friday, when an early-stage study published in the medical journal, The Lancet, showed that an experimental vaccine from China’s CanSino Biologics Inc. was safe and generated an immune response. It’s too early to predict the product’s eventual success, and investors beat down CanSino’s stock amid concerns it could have shortcomings.
China could still cross the finish line first, said Brad Loncar, chief executive officer of Loncar Investments in the US and a CanSino investor. However, he shares the worries about the company’s experimental shot.
Brad Loncar， Loncar
“Whether this will be a strong vaccine that offers full protection, that’s another story,” he said.
The speedy publication in an international journal showed the seriousness of the Chinese efforts. China is also pursuing vaccine candidates using more traditional technologies that are more amenable to mass production.
The Asian country faces stiff competition in the UK and US, and it remains difficult to assess which experimental products will work and cross the line first. But the nations with the earliest successful vaccines would gain an important weapon at a time when governments are attempting to emerge out of lockdowns that have fueled severe economic contractions. The virus that caused Covid-19 has already killed about 350,000 worldwide.
China would use any vaccine to show it is a responsible stakeholder in global health, said Nicholas Thomas, associate professor specializing in public health at the City University of Hong Kong. “The question that will then arise is to what extent their holding of the vaccine is used for geopolitical purposes, specifically with the United States.”
(SOURCE: World Health Organization. NOTE: Phase I trials usually study safety in a small number of patients. Phase II involves larger human testing.)
Xi is attempting to burnish his nation’s image after global criticism about its early handling of the virus, which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan. He has vowed that the country’s vaccines, once approved for use, will become a global public good and accessible to other developing countries. In doing so, he’s presented a contrast with Trump, who has threatened to cut off funding to the World Health Organization in a move that could disrupt vaccination and other public health initiatives in poor countries.
中国早期对病毒的应对遭受全球指责之后，习近平试图提升其国家形象，这种病毒最早出现在中国的武汉市。 他誓言该国的疫苗一旦获准使用，将成为全球公共物品，并可供其他发展中国家使用。 这样一来，他与特朗普形成了鲜明对比，特朗普扬言要切断向世界卫生组织的拨款，此举有可能破坏贫困国家的疫苗接种和其他公共卫生举措。
While China has boosted its scientific prowess in recent years, it has yet to produce a novel blockbuster drug or vaccine. Its vaccine industry has in past years also been tarnished by a series of scandals involving sub-par production and safety incidents. China’s National Medical Products Administration, the nation’s drug regulator, didn’t immediately comment.
尽管近年来中国在科学方面的实力得到了提高，但它尚未生产出新颖的畅销药物或疫苗。 在过去几年中，其疫苗行业也因一系列涉及低于标准生产和安全事件的丑闻而受到损害。 中国国家药品监督管理局，国家药品监督管理局没有立即发表评论。
In April, Gao Fu, director of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in an interview with state-run CCTV that the country could have a vaccine ready for emergency use by September and more broadly available for healthy people as soon as early next year.
Globally, data from a slew of companies show how much work remains to be done to produce a working vaccine before companies anywhere in the world can declare victory.
In the US, Moderna Inc. has announced early readouts of its Phase I clinical trials, indicating that some of those getting its shot have generated neutralizing antibodies that could potentially prevent infections. Still, after an initial rally its stock has fallen on concerns that the publicly available data isn’t enough to draw conclusions about the vaccine’s efficacy.
Meanwhile, AstraZeneca Plc received more than $1 billion in US government funding to develop a Covid-19 vaccine candidate from the University of Oxford, and said it has supply agreements for 400 million doses. The Oxford shot is one of the world’s fastest-moving, and AstraZeneca has said it expects to have doses ready as soon as September.
Still, a former Harvard University research scientist, William Haseltine, has said in a blog that results of an animal test of the Oxford vaccine were weaker than those of a vaccine being developed by Sinovac. The Oxford researchers say the comparison isn’t suitable for studies carried out with different types of vaccines given in varying doses in monkeys with different levels of infection.
CanSino makes its vaccine using a genetically modified cold-causing virus to carry the genetic material of the novel coronavirus, similar to the approach employed by Oxford.
The research on the CanSino vaccine was conducted in Wuhan and the company has teamed up with Chen Wei, a prominent military researcher. CanSino previously worked with Chen on an Ebola vaccine that was approved for emergency use in 2017.
While the results in the Lancet study represent a milestone, they should be interpreted cautiously, Chen said in the report. “The challenges in the development of a Covid-19 vaccine are unprecedented, and the ability to trigger these immune responses does not necessarily indicate that the vaccine will protect humans from Covid-19.” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Sam Fazeli said in a research note that the study on the CanSino vaccine was “promising, but no cause for celebration.” The data showed shortcomings, including the possibility of older patients having a lower response to the vaccine, he said.
陈伟在报告中说，虽然《柳叶刀》研究的结果是一个里程碑，但应谨慎解释。 “研发新冠状病毒疫苗面临的挑战是前所未有的，触发这些免疫反应的能力并不一定表明该疫苗将保护人类免受新冠状病毒的侵害。” 彭博情报分析师Sam Fazeli在一份研究报告中说，有关康希诺生物疫苗的研究“很有希望的，但没有值得庆祝的理由。” 他说，数据显示出缺陷，包括老年患者对疫苗反应较低的可能性。
Another potential obstacle for China is the final stage of testing, which needs to be carried out in places where the virus is spreading, according to Loncar, the fund manager. China has mostly quelled its outbreak, and the few clusters that have emerged may not be large enough for late-stage trials.
Several other Chinese companies, including Sinovac and China National Biotec Group Co., have candidates in human trials that employ a killed version of the novel coronavirus that can still an trigger immune response. Such inactivated vaccines have been developed for many years to protect populations from diseases including polio and hepatitis.
Sinovac’s research and development subsidiary has received $15 million from private equity firms Advantech Capital and Vivo Capital to fund the development of the inactivated vaccine, dubbed CoronaVac. The company has also been assigned a large factory to produce its coronavirus vaccine.
While inactivated vaccines may be slower to develop initially, their familiar path to mass production might allow them to overtake shots made by newer, cutting-edge approaches.
“Those vaccines don’t have manufacturing capability at a truly global scale yet,” Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations which funds vaccine development, said of newer technologies. The more traditional approach could be slower in getting to completion but could scale up more rapidly, he said. That could be particularly helpful to Xi’s goal of distributing China’s vaccine worldwide.
“那些疫苗还未具备真正的全球规模化的生产能力，”为疫苗研发提供资金的流行病防备创新联盟首席执行官理查德·哈切特谈到新技术时， 他说，较传统的方法可能较慢地完成，但可以更快地扩展。 这对于习近平将中国疫苗在全球范围内分发的目标特别有用。