Press conference on the role of scientific and technological innovation in supporting epidemic prevention and control

A press conference was held Friday morning to explain the role of scientific and technological innovation in supporting the prevention and control of the COVID-19 outbreak. February 22, 2020

Hu Kaihong:

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Welcome to this press conference held by the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council. We have invited Mr. Xu Nanping, vice minister of science and technology; Mr. Zeng Yixin, vice minister of the National Health Commission (NHC); Mr. Chen Shifei, deputy head of the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA); Mr. Zhou Qi and Mr. Wang Fusheng, academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). They will explain the role of scientific and technological innovation in supporting the prevention and control of the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as answer any questions you might have.

First, I will give the floor to Mr. Xu.

Xu Nanping:

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to media friends for their long-term concern and support for the pursuit of scientific and technological breakthroughs. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, China's scientific and technological community has conscientiously implemented the important instructions given by General Secretary Xi Jinping and other senior leaders of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee in regard to stepped-up efforts to make related scientific and technological breakthroughs. With the urgent needs of the people in mind, we have achieved positive progress in this regard.

First, we have determined "what should be done." To reach the objective of "making the COVID-19 more preventable and treatable" and meet the pressing needs for epidemic control, we have given priority to five areas, namely etiology and epidemiology, testing technology and products, drugs and clinical treatment, vaccine development, as well as development of animal testing models.

Second, we have decided "who should do it." Focusing on the main tasks, we have given full play to the role of major research institutions, including the CAS, the Academy of Military Sciences of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. We have mobilized universities, institutes and enterprises to participate in the endeavor, while keeping close interaction with front-line medical institutions. We have organized elite scientific and technological personnel drawn from all over the country to operate "as on a single chessboard" in vigorously pursuing breakthroughs.

Third, we have clarified "how to do it." The Leading Group of the CPC Central Committee on Novel Coronavirus Prevention and Control and the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council are coordinating the efforts to make scientific and technological breakthroughs. Vice Premier Liu He leads on the frontline, emphasizing that we should make result-oriented efforts, aim for appropriate applications, and combine scientific research with clinical treatment and epidemic control. He has throughout demanded that a specialized team be set up to carry out work based on a clear road map as in "wartime," with each member shouldering a specific responsibility and racing against time to advance major tasks such as drug screening and vaccine development. We have enhanced collaboration between different departments to facilitate coordination in scientific research and outcome approval. When handling special issues, we adopt a flexible approach while complying with relevant laws and regulations. In addition, we have sought to improve our services, actively helping to solve practical problems for scientific and technological personnel on the frontline.

Fourth, we defined "the level on which we should achieve progress." Faced with severe challenges caused by the outbreak, we have achieved positive progress in the pursuit of scientific and technological breakthroughs. This is attributed to the selfless dedication of scientific and technological personnel, the cumulative scientific and technological advances of our country, and close cooperation between various departments. 

Xu Nanping:

In regard to etiology and epidemiology, we have isolated novel coronavirus strains in a timely way, and shared the genetic sequence with the World Health Organization, paving the way for the development of diagnostic techniques, drugs and vaccines. We have deepened research into the routes and means of transmission, offering scientific support for optimizing prevention and control measures. 

In terms of drugs and clinical treatment, we have accelerated studies on "three kinds of drugs (or treatments) and three versions of the COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment scheme." Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is proving effective in preventing mild cases from worsening into severe ones. Methods combining TCM and Western medicine has been included in the third version of the scheme. Antiviral treatment using Chloroquine Phosphate for patients with mild and ordinary symptoms has been included in the sixth version. Therapy using plasma of cured patients for patients in a severe condition has been included in the fifth version.

Regarding the vaccine, we have been pushing forward related research using various technological approaches. Some vaccines should be able to begin clinical trials as early as late April. So far, vaccine research in China is basically on par with that in in other countries.

Regarding the R&D of testing reagents, in addition to the nucleic acid tests developed in the early days of the outbreak, we are also accelerating the development of rapid, highly sensitive, easy-to-use test products.

In terms of animal testing models, we have finished building ones involving rats and monkeys contracting the new coronavirus, laying the ground for studying various drugs screening, vaccine R&D and virus transmission mechanisms.

It has been a month since the research team was established. It is a very short period for any scientific study, but painfully long for patients who are struggling with the disease. The science and technology community in China gives priority to people's lives and health above all, doing its utmost to deliver effective sci-tech results, in order to relieve the pain and burden of the country and its people. 

Hu Kaihong:

Thank you. Now the floor is open for questions.

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