PLA top epidemiologist-led team achieves breakthrough in COVID-19 vaccine R&D: report

Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/4 1:14:50

Chen Wei, academician at the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Academy of Military Medical Sciences File Photo: Xinhua App

A research team led by a Chinese military major general who is a veteran in fighting SARS and Ebola has achieved a major breakthrough in developing a vaccine to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Chinese state broadcaster reported on Tuesday.

The military medical expert team has worked in Wuhan, the coronavirus epicenter, for more than a month, and the team led by Chen Wei, academician at the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Academy of Military Medical Sciences, is seizing every minute and second and focusing all efforts on this emergency scientific research, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Tuesday.

Chen's team has achieved a key progress in developing a vaccine to the novel coronavirus, the report said.

"We are doing all we can to put the recombinant vaccine that we are developing into clinical application," Chen said on CCTV.

Chen, 53 who is also a PLA major general, used to develop the world's first gene-based vaccine on the Ebola in 2014.

Chen was well-known for her efforts in combatting the SARS outbreak from 2002 to 2003, and her research on broad-spectrum antiviral drug had played a key role in fighting the disease, according to domestic industry news site She also worked as the head of epidemic prevention and control work during the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008 and led the team in working on Ebola vaccine in 2014.

The CCTV report also outlined a series of research achievements made by the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, including virus testing kits, medicines and vaccine.

The report footage included a display board that showed the expected results for the research, including an adenovirus vector vaccine for COVID-19 and a class 1 biological drug with full intellectual property rights, which can be used to treat not only COVID-19 patients, but also people who have been exposed to the virus as an emergency prevention measure. 

This shows the Academy of Military Medical Sciences is making concrete steps toward gaining the core technology that can be used against the COVID-19.

The Academy of Military Medical Sciences is one of China's top medical research institutes. It has 26 academicians, over 50 renowned scientists, over 500 senior experts and even more national level young and middle-aged talents, the PLA Daily reported in May 2019. 

Zhang Linqi, a professor at the School of Medicine at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said on CCTV on Tuesday that Chinese scientists have now managed to separate some high-quality antibodies, and they hope to transform some of the latest research results with these antibody vaccines into practice and serve the people as soon as possible.

The news soon made headlines on Tuesday night on Chinese social media, cheering Chinese netizens up amid the epidemic with many praising the effectiveness and sense of responsibility of the PLA researchers. 

Since January 24, the Chinese military sent out more than 4,000 medical workers to support Wuhan amid the outbreak and recorded zero infection and played active role in working on scientific research, according to a press conference on Monday. The work included joint research on nucleic acid testing kits for fast testing, medicine research, antibodies and vaccines research.

In a CCTV news footage aired on Tuesday night, Chen said they have been encourage by the Chinese top leader's comments on accelerating scientific research and development (R&D) in combatting the deadly virus by coming up with more self-developed core technology products with the aim of safeguarding public health and security, especially making major breakthroughs in vaccine development. 

Chen was quoted as saying in the media report that vaccines are special products, which is highly critical for epidemic prevention and control work. "We must strive to bring the vaccine we are working on to clinical trial and application, providing strong technological support for winning this battle," she said.

In an interview with the China Science Daily on January 30, Chen said that although scientists around the world are working painstakingly on developing vaccine against the COVID-19, it is unrealistic to create vaccines within one month as some media reported.  

 "But some excellent teams may do better and faster. US President Donald Trump said in late January a vaccine could be developed within the next few months. I believe Chinese research fellow would not lag behind the US counterparts," Chen said.

Even the virus mutates as time goes by, researchers can quickly improve vaccines by identifying unchanged target antigen and receptor via big data, according to Chen.  

Clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine could be just six weeks away, US Vice President Mike Pence said on Fox New Channel's "Sunday Morning Futures." However, Anthony Fauci, a top official at the National Institute of Health said last week that it would take between 12 and 18 months to create a vaccine that successfully treats COVID-19.

Global Times 


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