A Chinese research firm attached to the military has become the first organisation to enter the second clinical-trial stage in the global race to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus infection, which has claimed nearly 120,000 lives across the world so far.
China has approved three COVID-19 vaccine submissions for clinical trials, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted a Ministry of Science and Technology official as saying on Tuesday.
An adenovirus vector vaccine, developed by a research team led by Major General Chen Wei of the Institute of Military Medicine under the Academy of Military Sciences of the People’s Liberation Army, was the first to be approved to enter a clinical trial.
The first phase of the clinical trial was completed at the end of March, and the second phase started on 12 April.
It is the first COVID-19 vaccine in the world that has entered the second phase of clinical trial, the Xinhua report quoting the World Health Organization as saying.
On Sunday, the vaccine developed by the Institute of Biotechnology, Academy of Military Medical Sciences of China, entered Phase II of a human clinical trial with 500 volunteer participants.
The eldest volunteer is a 84-year-old Wuhan resident, Xiong Zhengxing, who completed the vaccination on Monday morning.
The vaccine is developed by genetic engineering methods and is used to prevent diseases caused by novel coronavirus infections, state-run China Daily reported on Monday.
The first phase of the vaccine clinical trial focused on its safety, while the second phase weighs more on its efficacy. Unlike the first phase, the second phase recruited more participants and introduced a placebo control group.
Volunteer recruitment for the vaccine began on Thursday. It is China’s first candidate for the virus that entered clinical human testing. The Phase I trial was conducted in March.
Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, many other Chinese institutes are also stepping up efforts to develop vaccines for the deadly disease that has killed over 120,000 people and infected 1,929,000 across the globe.
China has stepped up the process to finalise vaccines to counter COVID-19 after Kaiser Permanente research facility in Seattle and Washington stole the march and began human trials.
On Monday, the WHO said a safe and effective vaccine would be needed to fully halt the spread of COVID-19.
“Our global connectedness means the risk of re-introduction and resurgence of COVID-19 will continue,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual briefing from Geneva, stressing that “ultimately, the development and delivery of a safe and effective vaccine will be needed to fully interrupt transmission.”
There is a global race to develop the vaccine. India’s Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech lab are also developing vaccines besides firms in Australia and the UK.
Currently, there are no effective drugs for the deadly disease, although several candidate drugs are in clinical trials.
Scientists say China may have a head start on the development of the vaccine as it was the first to map out the genome sequence of the novel coronavirus after it surfaced in Wuhan city in December last year.
China subsequently shared the genome sequence with the WHO, the US and other countries, setting off the race to develop the vaccine.