Opportunity ‘Over’ to Test Potential COVID-19 Vaccine in Canada After China Suspends Shipment

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OTTAWA – The possibility of testing a potential vaccine against COVID-19 in Canadian clinical trials is now ‘over’ because Chinese customs have not approved it for shipment, according to the National Research Council (NRC) in Canada. NRC confirmed to CTV News Thursday that CanSino Biologics “does not have the authority” from the Chinese government to ship the Ad5-nCoV vaccine candidate “at this time.”

“Due to the delay in shipping vaccine doses to Canada, it is evident that this specific opportunity is over and NRC is focusing its team and facilities on other partners and COVID-19 priorities,” reads. on in the NRC emailed statement.

Based in Tianjin, China, CanSino signed an agreement with NRC in May. After Health Canada’s review and approval, the Canadian Center for Vaccinology was preparing to begin clinical trials as early as June, but progress stalled after Canadian officials said the Chinese government was blocking the shipping process .

“The agreement between NRC and CanSino was reviewed before it was signed by CanSino collaborators in the Chinese government – the Beijing Institute of Technology and the Ministry of Science and Technology – who had funded CanSino,” says the press release.

“After the signing, the Chinese government introduced process changes for shipping vaccines to other countries. The process is not clear to NRC. ”

CanSino Biologics did not respond to CTVNews.ca’s request for comment at the time of writing.

The Ad5-nCoV vaccine candidate has already been sent to other countries, including Russia, Chile, Argentina, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia for phase 3 or large-scale human trials .

Human trials of the vaccine candidate are also in phase 3 in China, with results promising enough that the Chinese government has approved its use in its military. The vaccine was one of the first in the world to enter the second phase of human clinical trials after it presented no major safety concerns.

Normally, testing a vaccine can take five to seven years, but anticipated Canadian clinical trials were expected to be accelerated through typical regulatory hurdles due to the urgency of the pandemic.

CanSino’s vaccine was developed using an NRC cell line that was previously used to produce an Ebola vaccine. The two organizations have been working together since 2013.

Handing over this type of asset without securing the intellectual property rights to the vaccine was a major missed opportunity for Canada, according to clinical pharmacologist Sabina Vohra-Miller.

“It’s a failure because you wouldn’t have this by-product if you didn’t have this fundamental cell line system,” she told CTV News.ca.

“We are trying to be the noblest citizens in terms of scientific advancement and to make sure that there is no barrier with that, and you expect there to be reciprocity on this. .

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Wednesday that several contracts are underway to ensure Canada has rapid access to potential COVID-19 vaccines.

“We’ve actually signed a number of agreements with potential vaccine producers around the world. The problem is, no one has a vaccine yet and no one knows who is going to develop the vaccine, like many countries around the world that we are working with. a range of partners to ensure that when someone finds a vaccine, Canadians will have access to it. ”

The Canadian government also announced in May that it is planning a $ 44 million upgrade at an NRC facility in Montreal to prepare for the possibility of a large-scale manufacturing effort of Ad5-nCoV if the human trials were successful.

As several trials around the world progress, there is currently no accepted cure or vaccine for the novel coronavirus.

With files from Solarina Ho from CTVNews.ca

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