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Chinese Scientists Get Closer to SARS Vaccine
Chinese scientists have made another breakthrough in the creation of a SARS vaccine, as antibodies against the virus have been discovered in monkeys after they had been injected with inactive versions of the vaccine.

But more time is still needed before scientists can conduct testing of the inactivated vaccine on humans and subsequently put it into clinical use.

"We have made breakthroughs in testing animals with inactivated vaccine and antibodies have been found after their inoculation," explained Huang Peitang, deputy head of the Key Science and Technology Group under the National Task Force for SARS Control and Prevention at a press conference Wednesday.

Dozens of scientists in two project groups are working around-the-clock testing animals with the inactivated vaccine. Antibodies have since been uncovered in 35 monkeys.

Vice-minister of science and technology Li Xueyong said inactivated vaccine research is relatively easy, and further work on deactivated vaccines and genetic study-based vaccines have already been integrated as part of China's middle and long-term basic research plans.

As for vaccine research based on genetic technology, the China National Biological Products Corporation (CNBPC), the country's largest bio-tech company, plans to spend 500 million yuan (US$60.46 million) developing vaccines against SARS.

The first 50 million yuan (US$6 million) has been invested in the early stage of the project, according to CNBPC General Manager Wang Guoli.

The money will be spent in improving and rebuilding labs and production facilities for SARS vaccines, flu vaccines, blood treatments and other biological products, Wang said.

The company is carrying out three SARS-related research projects and has invested another 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million) in developing SARS detection methods, blood serums against the virus and relevant vaccines.

At yesterday's press conference organized by the State Council Information Office, Li Xueyong said China's success in fighting against SARS has partly relied on international co-operation. He noted that it took only three months to map out the genetic sequence of the SARS virus due to the joint efforts made by scientists from a host of different countries.

"We must strengthen co-operation with international partners to battle diseases and that's an important lesson we've drawn from this two-month struggle," said Li.

International co-operation would continue to be important for future vaccines and genetic research, Li stressed. He added that each country provides different strengths in SARS treatment, which are mutually complementary.

(China Daily June 26, 2003)

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