A Chinese firm conducting trial coronavirus vaccine research is reportedly looking for foreign human guinea pigs to step up and volunteer to test their work.
AFP reports Sinovac Biotech, which is conducting one of the four clinical trials authorised by the Communist Party of China, has claimed great progress in its experimental research and promising results among monkeys.
Now it wants to look for non-local human participants because it claims domestic volunteers simply cannot be supplied, such is China’s alleged success in fighting the deadly pandemic that first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
More than 100 labs around the world are working to produce a viable a vaccine, but only seven — including Sinovac — are in clinical trials, according to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Sinovac has published results showing its vaccine has “largely protected” macaques from infection in an animal trial but they have yet to be peer reviewed by the global scientific community.
The company conducted early experimental human trials, administering the serum to 144 volunteers in April in eastern Jiangsu province, but is now looking to broaden the scope of its work.
Any progess will be held against evidence from the start of the crisis that China’s previous scientific advice was anything but accurate:
Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China🇳. pic.twitter.com/Fnl5P877VG
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 14, 2020
Sinovac, which has some 1,000 employees, hopes to see results on the safety of its product by the end of June following the first two phases of clinical trials.
The firm will then move to phase three of the trials, which will determine whether the vaccine is effective among carriers of the virus, and that’s where foreign volunteers come in.
“Currently we are talking to several countries in Europe and in Asia,” said Meng Weining, Sinovac’s director for international affairs.
Typically several thousand people would be needed for phase three, but “it’s not easy to get these numbers in any country,” Meng told AFP.
Even with success in the next stages, Sinovac would not be able to produce enough vaccines to treat the entire world population.
But Meng said the company is ready to collaborate with foreign partners which already buy its other vaccines against the flu and hepatitis.
Sinovac, founded in 2001, has previously developed vaccines for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, H1N1 influenza and gained approval to sell them in China, Reuters reports.
Two other Chinese firms, the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, an affiliate of state-owned China National Pharmaceutical Group and Hong Kong-listed biotech firm CanSino Bio, have also gained approval to start clinical trials for coronavirus vaccines.
AFP contributed to this story