Coronavirus clinical trials to start in April

By Liu Caiyu Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/10 20:03:40

Photo: VCG

The vaccine against the coronavirus developed by Chinese scientists is expected to undergo clinical trials in April at the earliest, only two weeks after the virus was isolated. 

Samples of the new vaccine were tested on more than 100 mice on Sunday. If successful, initial clinical trials will start in April to test the vaccine's safety in a group of people, according to news site on Monday. 

The vaccine was developed by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Medical School of Shanghai Tongji University and Shanghai-based biotechnology company Stemirna Therapeutics. 

The development of the vaccine is only in its very early stage. Many steps are needed before it could be used on humans, an official from the CDC said.

"The experiment on mice is just a preliminary screening of the candidate vaccine. When the effective virus antibody is found, we will conduct toxicity tests on larger animals such as monkeys to ensure the safety of human clinical trials," Liu Zhongmin, a professor and the head of Shanghai East Hospital, a hospital affiliated with Tongji University, told the CCTV. 

Tao Lina, a Shanghai-based vaccine expert, told the Global Times on Monday that there is no precedent for a vaccine to control an outbreak of a contagion. 

"Normally it would take at least two years before a vaccine is put in use. I'm cautious over some saying that a vaccine against the coronavirus can enter the market in three months."

It took 87 days for the H1N1 vaccine to enter China in 2009 from a vaccine strain being developed to its approval, Tao said.

Stemirna Therapeutics said the vaccine is based on the new generation of mRNA technology. Nine to 12 different antigens were used in animal trials of the vaccine.

The vaccines backed by mRNA technology simulate the process of how virus infections occur, induce cells to produce the same proteins on the surface of pathogens and then activate the immune response on humans, much like building a "pharmaceutical factory" inside the body.

Overseas scientists are also racing to develop a vaccine. 

Biotechnology companies including Inovio Pharmaceuticals and Moderna Therapeutics also claimed they are working to design a vaccine targeting the virus.

Moderna had said it can test a vaccine on people as early as April as well. 

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