Mexico was active recently in the investigational vaccine market, securing two deals with two different companies for a total of 151 million doses of experimental COVID-19 vaccine product. With a population of approximately 126 million, that North American nation entered into arrangement with CanSino Biologics Inc. (“CanSinoBIO”) for 35 million doses as well as a partnership with AstraZeneca PLC, Pfizer, and the COVAX involving 116 million local people to be vaccinated.
CanSino Biologics, makers of the vaccine candidate Adenovirus Type 5 vector or Ad5-nCoV, will supply the Mexican federal government by the end of 2020 to the year of 2021 according to a recent press release issued by the company. Apparently this particular experimental vaccine is the only one that is actually a single-dose regimen candidate among the ones the Mexican government procured.
What is Ad5-nCoV?
An experimental vaccine jointly developed by CanSinoBIO and Beijing Institute of Biotechnology (BIB), Academy of Military Medical Sciences, was actually the first experimental vaccine in the clinical pipeline by March 2020. Ad5-nCoV propelled even further ahead when it became the first candidate to evidence positive published results associated with the company’s Phase 1 and 2 trials.
The vaccine candidate uses replication-defective adenovirus type 5 as the vector to express the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which the avoids biosafety risks. The company promotes that the vaccine is easy to transport and store as it keeps stable between 2 degrees Celsius and 8 degrees Celsius. The company used the same underlying technology platform for their Ebola vaccine product (Ad5-EBOV) approved for emergency used and national stockpiling in 2017.
By June and before any Phase 3 clinical trials commenced, Ad5-nCoV received Military Specially-needed Drug Approval. An unusual move to say the least, it mirrored somewhat similar to what occurred in Russia where the Sputnik V vaccine was registered by authorities there prior to any Phase 3 clinical trial. In the case of Ad5-nCoV it would appear that the one year exclusive military approval was in fact a substitute for a Phase 3 study. CanSinoBIO pressed ahead seeking countries that would host its Phase 3 clinical trial in exchange for deals associated with Ad5-CoV.
The Big Canadian Let Down
A whole drama unfolded with this company involving quite an unfortunate ending. As it turns out, the founders of CanSinoBIO lived and worked in Canada for a time and the actual idea for the company materialized during this time. The founders sought to build a world class indigenous Chinese vaccine company.
Fast forward the pandemic onset and panic everywhere. With the U.S. launching Operation Warp Speed (OWS) as a key driver to accelerate vaccine research for some reason Canada sought out a vaccine deal with CanSinoBIO rather than its direct neighbor.
The Canadian Center for Vaccinology (CCV) at Dalhousie University in collaboration with National Research Council of Canada established a collaboration to jointly run clinical trials in Canada with the ultimate aim of supplying the country with the vaccine should it ultimately get approved. CCV never received the investigational product: why the vaccine candidate shipment wasn’t allowed to leave China’s customs. The speculation: although the company told the Canadian press this unfortunate mishap was due to “bureaucratic indecision” others suggest it was because of a growing triangle of political tension between America, Canada and China heightened at the time when Canadian authorities arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou—the daughter of the company’s founder.
Phase 3 Clinical Trial Partners
CanSinoBIO struggled at first to find partners as competition intensified given they faced two formidable competitors right from home (Sinopharm and Sinovac) as well as vaccine candidates out of the West including AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and others.
But the company was able to put organize a large Phase 3 clinical trial with up to 40,000 patients including trial sites in Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Pakistan.
China joined the COVAX facility, meaning China’s government committed to contributing to a subsidized shared pool of COVID-19 vaccine candidates from multiple companies. Now with this obligation CanSinoBIO shared in its recent news that it is now expanding manufacturing capacity to meet domestic and GMP standards in addition to ongoing pursuit of additional manufacturing partners. The U.S. has not thus far joined COVAX.
About CanSino Biologics
CanSino Biologics, founded in 2009 in Tianjin, was first conceived of by the founders in Canada. The group first filed for a public offering on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in July 2018 and actually floated their stock on 28 March, 2019. The company completed a secondary offering on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s STAR market, raising $750 million.