China strengthens position in coronavirus vax race

July 7, 2020

A coronavirus vaccine candidate from China’s Sinovac has officially entered phase 3 trials, becoming the world’s second candidate to make it to a late-stage trial. According to the World Health Organization, the candidate, based on technology used to develop a SARS vaccine, will enter a late-stage trial in Brazil, which is now the second hardest-hit country in the world. (A candidate from AstraZeneca and University of Oxford is the only other vaccine in phase 3 trials.)

Although China has not traditionally be a top player in the vaccine market, four of the of the 10 coronavirus candidates that are in phase 1/2 trials or later now come from China (one is from a Cadila Healthcare Limited, an Indian company, and the other five are from U.S. or EU companies). Eight of the 19 vaccine candidates in human trials are also from China.

China has also quickly developed its manufacturing capacity. According to a report in Reuters, a state-backed company built two vaccine production facilities in a matter of months, or at “war time speed.” 

But China is facing challenges to developing its candidates. With the spread of the coronavirus more under control in their home country, Chinese companies are having to look abroad to find robust patient populations to use for their clinical trials. The U.S. and EU have been unwilling to cooperate because they are focused on their own candidates, so China is instead working with Brazil, Canada, UAE, Indonesia and Mexico.  

In order to distribute a coronavirus vaccine globally, Chinese companies will also have to assuage concerns that the country could compromise safety standards to bring one of its candidates to the finish line.

Read more in this Reuters report.