Medicine giants reveal COVID-19 vaccines progress

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, November 17, 2020
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The Merck booth promotes its three COVID-19 vaccines in text on a LED display at the third China International Import Expo (CIIE). [Photo/]

The U.S.-based pharmaceutical firm Merck & Co., Inc., known as Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) outside the United States and Canada, announced at the CIIE that it has three candidates in development: It acquired Themis Bioscience currently engaged in developing a vaccine for COVID-19, which is now in Phase I trial. It is working with IAVI for another COVID-19 vaccine candidate in Phase I trial. Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics also entered a collaboration to develop an orally available antiviral candidate, undergoing Phase II and Phase III trials in some regions.

On Nov. 16, 2020, Moderna announced that a Phase 3 study of mRNA-1273, its vaccine candidate against COVID-19, has shown that the trial has met the statistical criteria pre-specified in the study protocol for efficacy, with a vaccine efficacy of 94.5%. Based on these interim safety and efficacy data, Moderna intends to apply for an EUA with the FDA in the coming weeks, and also plans to submit applications to global regulatory agencies for authorization.

According to data released by the World Health Organization, as of Oct. 19, there were 198 COVID-19 vaccine candidates being developed and registered in various countries, of which 44 have entered the clinical trial stage, and 10 have reached phase III clinical trials.

China is pushing for its own vaccines. It signed an agreement with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, officially joining COVAX on Oct 8. This is an important step for China to uphold the concept of a shared community of health for all and to honor its commitment of turning COVID-19 vaccines into a global public good.

Chongqing Zhifei Biological Products now has its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in Phase III trials and it's working with Cytiva for R&D and commercialization. Company founder Jiang Rensheng said progress was promising based on current data, but the clinical trials now have to be conducted in foreign countries since China has contained the pandemic.

Liu Jingzhen, chairman of Sinopharm Group, also said at the CIIE that hundreds of thousands of people had been vaccinated urgently with two inactivated vaccines developed by the National Biotec Group (CNBG), affiliated to Sinopharm, and there had not been a single serious adverse reaction.

Following a "severe adverse incident" in Brazil, Anvisa suspended its trial there of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech. In this case the death was reported of a volunteer on Oct. 29. But media reports later said the incident was deemed as a "suicide" that had nothing to do with the safety of the vaccine, which is in final-stage of global testing. Brazil's health regulator has announced that the trial of the Chinese coronavirus vaccine can now resume.

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