China approves two experimental vaccines to enter human trials

World Health Organisation says at least 20 different Covid-19 vaccines being worked on across globe

Pharmaceutical groups in Britain and China have taken crucial steps forward in the development of vaccines and treatments for coronavirus. While China approved early-stage human tests for two experimental vaccines on Tuesday, according to state media Xinhua, British firm AstraZeneca confirmed plans to launch a global clinical trial testing one of its drugs for treatment. The Chinese vaccine candidates are being developed by a Beijing-based unit of Nasdaq-listed Sinovac Biotech and by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, an affiliate of state-owned China National Pharmaceutical Group.

In March, authorities gave the green light for another clinical trial for a coronavirus vaccine candidate developed by the country’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences and HK-listed biotech firm CanSino Bio. That followed the announcement that US drug developer Moderna had begun human tests for their vaccine with the US National Institutes of Health.

In Britain, AstraZeneca said it was rushing through testing for Calquence – which is currently used to treat some blood cancers – after encouraging early clinical results suggested that suppressing the inflammation caused by the immune response could reduce the respiratory harm caused by coronavirus. This could cut deaths from COVID-19 and the need for ventilation in patients with life-threatening symptoms of the virus, Astra said. It marks the group’s fastest ever trial launch, which is expected to open in the coming days across the US and several countries in Europe.

Jose Baselga, executive vice-president of oncology research and development at Astra, said: “With this trial we are responding to the novel insights of the scientific community and hope to demonstrate that adding Calquence to best supportive care reduces the need to place patients on ventilators and improves their chances of survival.” The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that there are at least 20 different COVID-19 vaccines in development, including a handful at the clinical trial stage.

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