One of the leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates could be available as soon as the end of this year, reported the WeChat account of a China government-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission. The candidate’s development is led by a joint effort by the Beijing Institute of Biological Product (part of China National Biotech Group Co)—apparently they have completed Phase II testing and could be ready to market the finalized vaccine as early as end of 2020 or early into 2021. In what is turning into a race between a few key companies—backed by national dollars—the U.S. under Operation Warp Speed has also declared a safe and effective vaccine will be completed by January 2021.
The Beijing Institute of Biologic Products—part of China National Biotech Group has developed an inactive SARS-CoV-2 vaccine that nonetheless is designed to trigger an individual’s immune response. The “inactive vaccine” approach has been a well-established method for vaccine development targeting diseases from polio to hepatitis. Chinese and Indian press report the group is readying manufacturing capacity for up to 100-120 million vaccines annually. Ultimately, inactive vaccines could be slower to develop upfront but their manufacturing pathway is more familiar than novel, cutting-edge vaccines.
The Chinese Vaccine Effort Faces Challenges
As recently reported in the Times of India, as the Chinese firm moves into crucial Phase III testing in locations where COVID-19 still advances rapidly while the opposite occurs in China today. Moreover, the successful vaccine candidate manufacturer will incorporate high-scale production capacity to fulfill global demand.
China National Biotech Group Background
Known formally as China National Biotech Group Company Limited (CNBDG), the organization was previously called the Central Epidemic Prevention Department and was under the leadership of the Ministry of Health. This group is now under a global top 500 company called SINOPHARM. The company integrates discovery, drug development and manufacturing as well as commercialization with 11 secondary subsidiaries and “69 sub-secondary companies.”
Consisting of six major business segment,s including human vaccines, blood products, medical aesthetics, animal healthcare, biotherapeutics and medical diagnostics, the company possesses the capacity to produce 50 kinds of vaccines with annual output of over 700 million doses. They also supply more than 80% of the vaccines for the National Immunization Program in China.