Bangladesh’s health ministry has rejected calls by China’s Sinovac Biotech to co-finance a Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine-focused clinical trial in that country. Last month, Sinovac Biotech Ltd sent a letter to the health ministry declaring that unless funds were contributed, they would back out of the clinical trial in the world’s 8th most populous nation. But, apparently, this wasn’t the deal. Actually ,according to Bangladesh Health Minister Zahid Maleque, Sinovac had signed up to sponsor and fund the clinical trial. Why is Sinovac asking the nation of Bangladesh for money? Are they constrained on the cash front? They raised $15 million in a convertible note last year, which isn’t much given the world of COVID-19 vaccine development.
The Chinese biotech and vaccine developer, according to Reuters and Bangladeshi sources, committed to conduct the trial in the country if authorities in that nation approved the trial. The Health Minister was quoted, “A country’s job is done when it approves the clinical test of a vaccine. They never asked for co-funding when they sought approval for the trial. This is not a contract we have with the Chinese government. This is a private company and we cannot have a co-funding (arrangement) with a private company.”
Health Minister Maleque reported the nation could access the vaccine if approved regardless. He said they would work with WHO and apparently also participated in a program involving early access to said vaccine in addition to a collaboration with India affording early access.
As reported by Precision Vaccination, Sinovac’s vaccine is known as Coronavac. The vaccine candidate is based on an “inactivated pathogen” developed by actually growing the whole virus in the lab and then killing the pathogen.
Financial & Other Problems?
Sinovac has had challenges with investors in the past, as reported by TrialSite. The company recently raised $15 million in a convertible note but frankly, this isn’t much money in the world of vaccine development. Are there concerns here?
Moreover, the company instituted a “poison pill” in 2019 to protect management from disgruntled shareholders. Did they have good reason to be upset?