One of China’s leading vaccine manufacturers, CanSino Biologics has taken massive strides since its foundation in 2009 and has secured approvals in several countries for its ebola, meningitis, and COVID-19 jabs. The manufacturer of the world’s first inhaled COVID-19 vaccine, CanSinoBIO is also continuing to invest in mRNA technology in the hope of finally bringing an mRNA COVID vaccine to mainland China. Read on for four things to know.


1. A History of Vaccine Success

Founded in 2009 in Tianjin by a group of Chinese industry professionals who returned to their home country after long stints in the US and Canada, CanSinoBIO had already made strides with other vaccine candidates and garnered approvals for its Ebola shot, Ad5-EBOV, and its meningitis vaccine, Menphecia, before beginning work on COVID-19 .

The company’s efforts advanced rapidly and in June 2020, CanSinoBIO’s single-dose COVID-19 candidate, AD5-nCOV, or Convidecia, produced in conjunction with the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, was already in Phase II trials. According to the company, at that time it was the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine candidate to have advanced that far.

Then senior VP of international business, Pierre Morgon discussed the firm’s commitment to innovation in a 2020 Pharmaboardroom interview. “Some really innovative technology has emerged [from the company], such as the vector-based technology using the recombinant replication-defective human adenovirus type-5 vector that CanSinoBIO used to develop our COVID-19 candidate,” he said.


2. Approvals for COVID-19 Vaccine in 11 Countries

In February, 2022, Convidecia, received conditional marketing authorization in China and became the first and only adenovirus-vectored vaccine to be included in the country’s vaccination programme. Further WHO emergency use approval followed and in Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Hungary, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, and the Republic of Moldova.

Convidecia’s efficacy, the company reported in a World Health Organization (WHO) presentation, is around 63.7 percent effective against COVID-19 two weeks after vaccination, and 96 percent effective against severe disease over that same period. To leverage the drug’s efficacy while stretching its capacity and improving uptake, CanSinoBIO began to look at new methods of delivery.


3. The World’s First Inhaled COVID-19 Vaccine

CanSinoBIO teamed up with Irish drug delivery specialist Aerogen in 2021 to develop and market an inhaled version of its recombinant COVID-19 shot, Convidecia. Because aerosol delivery requires a smaller volume of vaccine,  the company argued, an inhaled version would stretch capacity and allow more patients to access the vaccine.

“The world has an urgent need for an effective, low cost, globally scalable and globally accessible solution to mass vaccination,” Aerogen CEO and founder John Power said at the time of the agreement.”

CanSino’s inhaled COVID-19 vaccine, the first of its kind, Convidecia Air, was granted emergency use approval by the National Medical Products Administration of China as a booster dose in September, 2022. The inhaled version of the vaccine was later approved by the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council of China for inclusion in Shanghai, Tianjin, and Jiangsu provinces’ booster vaccination programmes and for emergency use in Morocco.

The needle-free version of Convidecia is particularly relevant for China’s booster-reticent older population. At the time the zero-Covid policy was lifted, less than half of the country’s over-80 citizens had received three doses. The painless and non-invasive delivery of Convidecia Air may encourage needle shy patients and help to improve uptake.


4. Still working on an mRNA Vaccine

CanSino Biologics’ COVID-19 efforts are still ongoing. In mid-stage clinical trials, its experimental COVID-19 mRNA booster vaccine, CS-2034, the company says, has shown positive results.

In a trial on people who had already received three doses of an inactivated vaccine patients showed virus-neutralizing antibodies at levels that were 27 times as high as those in the inactivated vaccine group against the original Wuhan strain, and 23 times higher against the BA.1 Omicron variant, according to the company release.

As of January 2023, there are still no mRNA COVID-19 vaccines available in mainland China, despite the greater efficacy these products have proven to have when compared to currently available domestically produced vaccines. With the rolling back of the ‘Dynamic Zero-COVID’ policy, many Chinese with the means to be able to do so are flocking to Macau to receive mRNA jabs, while Western mRNA vaccine manufacturers such as Moderna remain in talks to bring their shots to China.