BEIJING, March 17 (Xinhua) -- Some vaccines for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are expected to enter clinical trials as soon as possible in China, officials said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Chinese scientists have been racing to develop COVID-19 vaccines by five approaches, namely inactivated vaccines, genetic engineering subunit vaccines, adenovirus vector vaccines, nucleic acid vaccines, and vaccines using attenuated influenza virus as vectors, said Wang Junzhi, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
He noted that vaccine safety has been a priority in research and development.
So far, most teams are expected to complete preclinical research in April and some are moving forward faster, said Wang.
Some research team has been enrolling volunteers and applied for clinical trials with the National Medical Products Administration, he added.
Wang noted that the research and development of COVID-19 vaccines in China, not slower than foreign counterparts, has been carried out in a scientific, standardized and orderly way.
Lei Chaozi, an official with the Ministry of Education, said that the flu viral vector-based vaccine is currently under animal tests for safety and efficacy tests and scheduled to apply for the clinical trial by the end of April.
The animal testing for recombinant protein-based subunit vaccines is also underway and the country is capable of producing high-quality and high-purity proteins for vaccines on a large scale, according to Lei.
As for nucleic acid-based vaccines, Lei said China is stepping up related studies based on past experience combating MERS and will speed up tests for the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.
Some universities and colleges have also isolated neutralizing antibodies against COVID-19 from the blood of recovered patients, which will be able to provide a three-week-long immunity.
The ministry has called on universities and colleges with advantages, including Peking University, Tsinghua University and Xiamen University, as well as scientific research institutions and related enterprises to speed up research on the COVID-19 vaccine since the Chinese Lunar New Year, Lei said.
He added that vaccine research conducted by Chinese universities and colleges has been pushed forward following regulations and laws as expected.
Qin Chuan, a researcher from the Institute of Laboratory Animal Sciences under the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (CAM), said Chinese researchers have developed animal models including humanized transgenic mouse models and Rhesus monkey models that have helped deepen the understanding of the novel coronavirus.
Animal models help researchers identify transmission routes of the virus, screen possible drugs, and make sure the vaccines are safe and effective, Qin said.
According to Qin, eight COVID-19 vaccines are currently under evaluation at the CAM and some have been completed.
On Monday, an official from the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission said that a vaccine developed in Shanghai is expected to enter clinical trials by mid-April.