Beijing: Efforts to develop a vaccine were underway in China in partnership with researchers from other countries, with work focusing on five main types, a media report said on Thursday.
As of Thursday, the overall coronavirus death toll in the Chinese mainland was 3,169, with a total of 80,793 cases. Globally, there were 123,825 confirmed cases, with 4,620 fatalities.
Wu Yuanbin, the head of the bureau of social development at the Ministry of Science and Technology, told the media last week that the situation in China has improved, though the epidemic was gaining momentum in other countries, the China Daily said in the report.
“The virus knows no borders, and since the outbreak began, it has become a global concern,” Wu said. “As the epidemic is worsening in some countries, it is more important now than ever for the international community to strengthen scientific cooperation.”
Zheng Zhongwei, director of the Development Center for Medical Science and Technology of the National Health Commission, said that China has nine ongoing research projects on vaccine development, and some will hopefully enter clinical trials in April.
The main types of vaccine that China is working on include inactivated, nucleic acid-based and vector vaccines.
The US biotech company Inovio Pharmaceuticals and its partner Beijing Advaccine Biotechnology are developing a “DNA vaccine” called INO-4800, the China Daily said in the report.
This nucleic acid-based vaccine is in preclinical trial and involves directly injecting genetic material into a person to trigger a strong immune response.
In January, US biotech company GeoVax partnered with Chinese vaccine developer BravoVax to develop a vector vaccine, which uses a weakened virus to transport pieces of the pathogen into the human body. This vaccine is also in pre-clinical trial.
As for drug development, Chinese scientists have expanded clinical trials for favipiravir, a Japanese antiviral drug that showed promise against the virus in clinical trials in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, according to the China Daily.
The expanded trials would cover patients in Wuhan, said Sun Yanrong, deputy director of the China National Center for Biotechnology Development.
Tocilizumab, a drug that suppresses over-reactions of the immune system, has recently been added to the treatment and diagnosis guideline of the National Health Commission, she added.
The Swiss-made anti-inflammation drug helps to inhibit a deadly medical condition called a cytokine storm-an overproduction of immune cells that damages healthy tissues-which is also one of the main causes of death for critically ill COVID-19 patients.
Sun said around 270 severely ill patients were being treated with tocilizumab.
Cao Bin, the head of clinical trials for the antiviral medicine remdesivir in China, said last week that the experimental US drug had been administered to more than 230 severely ill patients, but their results would take time to collect and analyze.
Remdesivir, developed by US biotech company Gilead Sciences, is not currently approved for any indication globally, but clinical trials in China, the US and other countries with high numbers of diagnosed cases are being conducted to test its efficacy against COVID-19, the drug maker said.