Chinese firm working on COVID-19 mRNA vaccine that can be stored at fridge temperature

Holly Chik, South China Morning Post

Posted at Mar 08 2021 01:26 PM | Updated as of Mar 08 2021 01:47 PM

San Juan City launches its vaccination program as medical frontliners from the San Juan Medical Center get inoculated with the Sinovac vaccine at the Filoil Flying V Arena on March 6, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

A Chinese biotechnology company is working on a new Covid-19 vaccine using advanced genetic techniques that can be stored in a regular fridge.

The mRNA vaccine, which is being developed by Guangzhou RiboBio and has already been tested on animals, has a shelf life of about six months when stored at between 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the state-run Science and Technology Daily.

Zhang Biliang, the company’s founder, was quoted as saying the firm had the biggest mRNA raw material factory in China with capacity to produce enough doses for 100 million people a year.

The product could be stored at a higher temperature than other Covid-19 mRNA vaccines because of the “lipid nanoparticles patented technology” his team had developed, he said.

Comparing mRNA vaccines to an egg, Zhang said the shell was a lipid compound that carried the mRNA fragment, which stimulated the immune system, adding that vaccine producers were looking for different ways to stabilise and make the shell safer.

Meanwhile, scientists at the National Centre for Nanoscience and Technology of China are developing a vaccine with a nanocarrier-based delivery system, the newspaper report quoted its director general, Zhao Yuliang, as saying.

The system could boost the efficiency of the jab and reduce side effects, he said, adding that the coronavirus pandemic had prompted nanoscience researchers and vaccine developers to work together for the first time.

The research project began last year in collaboration with Chen Wei, a virologist and epidemiologist from the Chinese Academy of Military Medical Sciences, who also led the team that developed the CanSino vaccine that has already been approved for public use.

At a meeting on Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping told members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) representing the medical and pharmaceutical sectors that they should work together to resolve bottlenecks in the development of vaccines and medical equipment.

China has approved four Covid-19 vaccines for general use – all of them locally developed – and as of late February had administered 52 million doses to its citizens. It has set a goal to vaccinate 40 per cent of the population by July.

Chinese state media reported in December that a production facility was being built that would be capable of making 120 million doses of an mRNA vaccine being developed by the PLA Academy of Military Science, Walvax Biotechnology and Suzhou Abogen Biosciences.

Meanwhile, George Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a CPPCC meeting that the country should set up a national vaccine research centre, China News Service reported on Saturday.

A vaccine for Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) was developed but the epidemic had ended before it could be put to use.
“We should study these vaccines well and be prepared,” he said, adding that the government should increase its investment in basic research in related fields.

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