Chinese biotech CanSinoBIO is racing against the clock to have a COVID-19 vaccine ready to begin production in early 2021. The firm’s senior VP of International Business Pierre Morgon reflects on CanSinoBIO’s progress thus far and a timeline of what we can realistically expect if and when Chinese authorities give the vaccine the green light.
At the beginning of May, there were around 80 COVID-19 vaccines in development worldwide, a number that continues to increase as the pandemic continues its course. In the global race, Chinese biotech firm CanSinoBIO is among the frontrunners with its vaccine candidate already in Phase II trials.
Speaking recently to PharmaBoardroom, Pierre Morgon was asked about a deployment timeline. Morgon responded by emphasizing the complexity of the process, “The reality of vaccines is very complex. When we say that a vaccine is ready, what do we mean? That is a huge question. For CanSinoBIO, what we will know very soon – upon the conclusion of our Phase II trials in China – is whether our vaccine is medically acceptable, i.e. safe and effective.”
The reality of vaccines is very complex. When we say that a vaccine is ready, what do we mean? That is a huge question.
The sheer number of doses needed is of chief concern to all companies working on a vaccine. For CanSinoBIO, even if the vaccine is given the green light and production begins in September 2020, the first batch would not be completed until March 2021.
Morgon explained that to have a vaccine of this scale ready for distribution, the entire manufacturing process must be taken into account. “After the bulk doses are finished, they have to be formulated, filled and finished, so capacity is needed there too, and not to mention the massive numbers of syringes and needles for the delivery of the vaccines to the end-users,” he noted. “The manufacturer can expand capacity through technology transfer but it is not a copy-and-paste process, the partnering companies need to have the platform technology ready, trained professionals, the right facility and equipment under GMP operations, and so on.”
Further complicating the public’s perception of a realistic timeline is the issue of media coverage, which has, according to Morgon, either oversimplified or ignored the complexities involved in vaccine production: “I think the media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic has been rather polarizing. The focus has been on either the mounting death tolls and stressful accounts of oversaturated ICUs or the ‘discovery’ of a vaccine for the virus without acknowledgement of the reality that the vaccine development process cannot be completed overnight and that supply of sufficient quantities will take some time.”
CanSinoBIO is partnering with the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology on developing its vaccine candidate and has extended its reach internationally to Canada and other countries to conduct clinical trials. The firm hopes that by collaborating with the public sector and internationally, as well as by maximizing bulk manufacturing capacity, the vaccine can be made more widely accessible. Morgon concluded by stating that “The general objective is of course to maximize the number of people we can immunize globally. That is ultimately in the best interest of public health.”