While there are multiple pharmaceutical companies across the world that are working towards a coronavirus vaccine, there are only a handful that have reached advanced stages of trials. Moderna, and AstraZeneca that is developing the corona vaccine with Oxford University have been in the news for making headway in the trials. Johnson and Johnson, Sanofi, Inovio, Sinovac, CanSino are some of the other companies to have made significant progress.
Additionally, a vaccine alliance that is backing at least nine candidates has identified manufacturers that can produce up to 4 billion doses of vaccine in a year. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI) has identified two or three manufacturing plants for each vaccine. They can currently produce two billion doses by 2021. The group is planning for eight to 10 regional distribution sites in order to avoid making everything centrally and trying to ship it around the world.
Here are the latest developments from the leading contenders for a coronavirus vaccine:
Moderna: The US-based pharma company is all set for Phase III in July. The third phase of the trial will include 30,000 participants in the US. It will be conducted alongside the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). CEO Stephane Bancel said that the vaccine candidate has an 80-90 per cent chance of receiving FDA approval. "We know our platform. It works on MERS, Zika and CMV and so on. When you have the right sequence... you will get neutralising antibodies," he said.
AstraZeneca: The company has started trials in South Africa and Brazil. University of Witwatersrand in South Africa is working with Oxford University to evaluate the candidate. Meanwhile the Brazil trials are sponsored by the Lemann Foundation. Moreover, AstraZeneca has signed its 10th deal for supply and manufacturing of its vaccine candidate. Symbiosis Pharmaceutical said on Wednesday it agreed to make and supply an unspecified number of units of the vaccine, AZD1222, for AstraZeneca to use in clinical trials.
Johnson and Johnson: J&J has expedited its trials for the COVID vaccine. The final stage of the trial expected to begin in September has been pushed up to the second half of July. Like AstraZeneca, J&J believes this to be a race against time. The company expects to get approval for its candidate by early 2021. Johnson and Johnson has also received funds from US government's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development (BARDA) to speed up its vaccine development programme. The company is also in talks with European Commission to supply its candidate if it succeeds.
Inovio: Inovio began human trials for its coronavirus vaccine candidate in April. It expects to report interim results from the trial later this month, and added that it would begin mid-stage trials this summer. The pharmaceutical company said that it has received $71 million from the US Department of Defence (DoD) to scale up production of the company's devices that are used to administer its experimental COVID-19 vaccine into the skin.
CanSino: The company is developing its corona vaccine with Academy of Military Science (AMS) and People's Liberation Army. The candidate is under Phase II of trials in China and has been approved for human trials in Canada.
Pfizer: The company is aiming to make the COVID-19 vaccine candidate ready by October 2020. The CEO of the pharmaceutical company Albert Bourla said, "If things go well, and the stars are aligned, we will have enough evidence of safety and efficacy so that we can... have a vaccine around the end of October." The company is working with German firm BioNTech for possible vaccines.
Sanofi Pasteur: French drugmaker Sanofi said that it expects to get approval for the corona vaccine that it is developing with GlaxoSmithKline Plc by the first half of next year. If successful, it would be available by April 2021. "We are being guided by our dialogue with regulatory authorities," said Sanofi research chief John Reed.
Sinovac: Chinese vaccine-maker Sinovac has said that its candidate CoronaVac has witnessed immune response in Phases I and II of the trials. It said that the vaccine has not caused severe side effects and more than 90 per cent of the volunteers have induced neutralising antibodies.