The latest: A new Covid-19 mRNA vaccine developed by CanSino Biologics Inc. (6185.HK) has been approved by China’s National Medical Products Administration to begin clinical trials in the country, the company announced on Monday.

Looking up: The announcement cites preclinical studies showing the new vaccine can induce high-titer neutralizing antibodies against multiple Covid variants recognized by the World Health Organization as important variants, including the current dominant strain. Compared with the current original strain-based Covid vaccines, the company stated that its new mRNA vaccine can elicit neutralizing antibodies with better cross-variant reactivity, and is expected to provide more effective protection against infections caused by circulating variants.

Take Note: Each new vaccine must undergo extensive and rigorous testing to ensure its safety before it can be included in the national vaccine program. What’s more, an actual launch of clinical trials is likely to take some time.

Digging Deeper: In addition to the new mRNA vaccine that will soon start clinical trials, CanSino’s other Covid vaccine, Convidecia, which uses recombinant adenovirus carrier type 5 technology, was approved with conditions in February last year, and is the only vaccine of six now approved in China that can be administered with a single dose. It was also approved this February for use in a “mixed” booster vaccination program to protect against Covid. But the vaccine’s overall effectiveness at preventing symptoms was only about 57.5%, lower than mRNA vaccines developed by major foreign pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer (PFE.US) and Moderna (MRNA.US). However, Convidecia can be stored in less cold conditions, unlike the much colder requirements for mRNA vaccines. Convidecia is currently used in countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Hungary, Chile and Mexico. If the new vaccine is finally approved, CanSino will become one of the few companies in China to successfully develop an mRNA vaccine.

Market Reaction: CanSino opened up 11.6% on Monday morning, but gave back about half of that to close up 5.1% at HK$131.9 at the midday break. The stock has been on a downward trajectory since last June and still trades near the lower end of its 52 week range.

Translation by Jony Ho

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