Coronavirus vaccine update: China's Zhifei starts Phase II trial of vaccine

The total number of coronavirus cases across the world has crossed the 12-million mark and the death toll has gone past 550,000. There currently are over 100 vaccines at various stages of development worldwide, including in India, Britain, China, the US, Russia and Israel.

Coronavirus is finding new victims worldwide, giving rise to frightening clusters of infection that increasingly seems to confirm what many scientists have been saying for months: The virus might linger in the air indoors, infecting those nearby. If airborne transmission is a significant factor in the pandemic, especially in crowded spaces with poor ventilation, the consequences for containment will be significant. Thus, there's pressure from governments on pharmaceutical companies and scientists to come up with a vaccine as soon as possible.

China's Sinovac Biotech, China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and AstraZeneca's experimental Covid-19 vaccine are the only other candidates in late-stage Phase III trials. Moderna also plans to start its late-stage trial this month. There's pressure from governments on pharmaceutical companies and scientists to come up with a vaccine as soon as possible. Moderna, AstraZeneca, BioNTech, Novavax, Sinovac, CanSino Biologics and Inovio Pharmaceuticals are among those leading the race at present.

Coronavirus treatment: Updates on coronavirus vaccine/drug development:

1. Coronavirus treatment: Gilead testing inhalable form of remdesivir

Gilead Sciences Inc said on Wednesday it has started an early-stage study of its antiviral Covid-19 treatment remdesivir that can be inhaled, for use outside of hospitals.

The company said the trial, which will enroll about 60 healthy Americans aged between 18 and 45, will test the drug particularly in those cases where the disease has not progressed to require hospitalisation. 

The drug is currently used intravenously and an inhaled formulation would be given through a nebulizer, which could potentially allow for easier administration outside hospitals.

2. China's Zhifei starts Phase II trial of coronavirus vaccine

A coronavirus vaccine candidate developed by a unit of China's Chongqing Zhifei Biological Products has moved into Phase II human trials, the company said on Friday, less than three weeks after it launched clinical trials.

The firm did not provide details of the trial design or results of the Phase I test of the experimental vaccine, being co-developed by Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical and the Institute of Microbiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

3. Coronavirus vaccine race: Novavax gets $1.6 billion in US funding

The US government has awarded Novavax Inc $1.6 billion to cover testing and manufacturing of a potential vaccine for the novel coronavirus in the United States, with the aim of delivering 100 million doses by January. Novavax is somewhat of a dark horse in the race for a coronavirus vaccine. The company was not on the list of vaccine finalists for Warp Speed previously reported by the New York Times that included Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer Inc, J&J and Merck & Co.

4. GSK to develop plant-based Covid-19 vaccine with Canada's Medicago

The world's largest vaccine-maker GSK has put its vaccine booster technology to work in a potential new COVID-19 shot, to be developed with a Canadian biopharmaceutical company backed by tobacco company Philip Morris .

Rather than developing its own vaccine in the global race to combat the pandemic, GSK has instead focused on contributing its adjuvant technology to at least seven other global companies, including Sanofi and China's Clover.

5. Serum Institute of India expects Covid vaccine by year-end

Vaccine maker Serum Institute of India (SII) is hoping to develop a Covid-19 vaccine by the year-end as it is focusing on a "good and safe" product and is not in a "rush", the company's CEO Adar Poonawalla said.

Replying to a question about the development of the Covid-19 vaccine, Poonawalla said that by the end of 2020, the SII is hoping to have a vaccine.

"End of the year, we are hoping to have a vaccine. So we will discuss once of the phase three trials for the product come about.

6. Coronavirus vaccine update: China's Sinovac starts late stage trials for its vaccine

China's Sinovac Biotech is starting Phase III trials of its potential coronavirus vaccine in Brazil, becoming one of three companies to move into the late stages in the race to develop an inoculation against the disease.

It follows a fast-track approval for the trials by Brazilian regulators last week.

Sinovac said the study, which will be done in partnership with Brazilian vaccine producer the Instituto Butantan, would recruit nearly 9,000 healthcare professionals working in Covid-19 specialised facilities and start this month. Sinovac initiated the development of the vaccine candidate in late January 

7.  ICMR's deadline for Covid-19 vaccine launch unfeasible: Indian Academy of Sciences

The Indian Academy of Sciences, a Bengaluru-based body of scientists, has said the Indian Council for Medical Research's (ICMR) target to launch a coronavirus vaccine by August 15 is "unfeasible" and "unrealistic".

The IASc said while there is an unquestioned urgent need, vaccine development for use in humans requires scientifically executed clinical trials in a phased manner.

While administrative approvals can be expedited, the "scientific processes of experimentation and data collection have a natural time span that cannot be hastened without compromising standards of scientific rigour", the IASc said in a statement.

In its statement, the IASc referred to the ICMR's letter which states that "it is envisaged to launch the vaccine for public health use latest by 15th August 2020 after completion of all clinical trials".

8. Britain nears 500 million pound deal for Sanofi/GSK Covid-19 vaccine

Britain is close to agreeing a 500 million pound ($624 million) supply deal with Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline for 60 million doses of their potential Covid-19 vaccine, the Sunday Times reported.

The newspaper said that Britain was considering taking an option to buy the vaccine should it work in human trials, which are due to begin in September.

9. Zydus Cadila gets DCGI nod for human clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccine

After Bharat Biotech's Covaxin, another potential Covid-19 vaccine indigenously developed by Ahmedabad-based Zydus Cadila Healthcare Ltd got nod from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) on Thursday for human clinical trials, government sources said.

The approval process was fast-tracked following recommendation by the subject expert committee on Covid-19, considering the emergency and unmet medical need during the pandemic.

10. Oxford vaccine update: offers ‘good duration of immunity’ to Covid-19, says lead researcher

Oxford University, experts think, is the most likely to come up with a viable vaccine candidate for Covid-19, which has caused havoc around the world. Even the World Health Organisation has pegged them as the leading candidate for a viable vaccine.

11. Ad5-nCoV by CanSino coronavirus vaccine update

Having completed Phase 2 clinical trials, the Ad5-nCoV was recently approved for use in the Chinese military.

Developed jointly by Chinese vaccine company CanSino Biologics and the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology in the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, the vaccine has reportedly shown promising results in the Phase 2 clinical trials, though they are yet to be published.

11: mRNA-1273 by Moderna coronavirus vaccine update

The mRNA-1273 vaccine candidate, developed by US-based biotechnology company Moderna, has started Phase 2 clinical trials. The mRNA is a molecule that genetically encodes a set of instructions, based on which cells make proteins and send them to various parts of the body.

Medicines based on mRNA technology take advantage of normal biological processes of the body to create desired therapeutic effects.

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