China made another breakthrough in battling the coronavirus pandemic, with China National Biotec Group (CNBG) announcing Wednesday that an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine production workshop of its affiliated Beijing institute of biological products, the first and largest of its kind in the world, has passed national examination.
The facility was granted a production certificate and it is now available for use, CNBG, an affiliate of the state-run China National Pharmaceutical Group, said in a statement sent to the Global Times.
The Beijing institute took only two months to finish building the facility on April 15. Related government departments conducted a thorough biosecurity examination of the production workshop in July, and concluded the facility met national standards, and could go into operation for mass production of COVID-19 vaccines, read the statement.
After the Beijing manufacturing workshop and another production facility belonging to CNBG's Wuhan institute of biological products begin operations, CNBG will be capable of ensuring an annual capacity of 220 million doses of vaccines, according to its developer.
The 220 million doses are large to first immunize medical staff and personnel working at airports and border checkpoints, Tao Lina, a Shanghai-based vaccine researcher, told the Global Times Wednesday.
"It is possible that China could have a COVID-19 vaccine as early as the end of October as some domestically made COVID-19 vaccines have entered phase three clinical trials and needs about a month to observe their effects on samples," Tao said.
After securing a certain amount of vaccine for China's strategic reserves, exports can be considered, Tao noted, adding countries such as the Philippines and Brazil are potential destinations.
Sinopharm is launching the fourth major COVID-19 vaccine trial in Brazil and will seek regulatory approval soon, Reuters reported on July 30.
The company's candidate vaccine is already being tested in the United Arab Emirates with 15,000 local volunteers, including UAE nationals and expatriates there, since middle July.
In another major step, German firm BioNTech and its Chinese partner Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical announced Wednesday that 72 trial participants have been dosed with BNT162b1, a COVID-19 vaccine candidate based on BioNTech's mRNA technology, following the Chinese regulators' examination and approval. The two firms are jointly developing the coronavirus vaccine candidate in China too.
In another sign of progress, scientists from the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions announced Monday a breakthrough in the development of a recombinant COVID-19 vaccine, envisioning the vaccine's mass production to be feasible at a low cost in the future.
A spokesperson for Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in late July that China has 13 firms that have begun capacity building for COVID-19 vaccines, and nine have been approved to start clinical trials.
Four of the nine firms are pushing for an inactivated vaccine technical route, three are focusing on nucleic acid vaccines, one is based on adenovirus vector vaccines and one has opted for recombinant protein vaccines, media reports say.
The nation's advances in the research and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines have been translated into remarkable gains in vaccine-related stocks on the A-share market.
Shares in the Shanghai-listed Fosun Pharmaceutical soared by the 10 percent daily trading limit to close at 74.01 yuan Wednesday, having rallied 182 percent for the year.
In another sign that the nation's capital market is expected to fund its biotech capability, Hong Kong-traded CanSino Biologics is set to debut in the STAR Market tech board in Shanghai , making the vaccine maker the first dual-listed vaccine company in China .
CanSino Biologics revealed in late June that a recombinant novel COVID-19 vaccine it developed with a military research team has been granted a special one-year military drug approval.