BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Suzhou Abogen Biosciences Co said its COVID-19 vaccine candidate using the messenger RNA (mRNA) technology and targeting the Omicron variant has obtained clinical trial approval in the United Arab Emirates.
With Friday’s announcement, Abogen joins Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna in trialing candidates modified specifically against Omicron, a highly transmissible variant with increased resistance to antibodies elicited by existing shots.
Mainland China has vaccinated over 88% of its 1.4 billion people against COVID with non-mRNA shots. It has not approved any foreign vaccines, although real-world data indicated the two most used Chinese products, manufactured by Sinopharm and Sinovac, have lower effectiveness against COVID infection than mRNA shots from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.
Besides the UAE, Abogen was communicating with regulators in China and other countries on potential clinical trials for the Omicron-specific candidate, it said in a statement.
An mRNA candidate based on an older coronavirus strain without major mutations, which Abogen co-developed with Walvax Biotechnology and a Chinese military-backed research institution, is being tested in a Phase III trial in China, Mexico and Indonesia.
Walvax is also partnering with Shanghai-based startup RNACure to develop a variants-targeting mRNA vaccine candidate, with design different from Abogen’s.
Two Omicron-specific vaccine candidates from Sinopharm and one from Sinovac, containing inactivated or “killed” coronavirus, have been cleared for clinical trials in Hong Kong and mainland China.
The UAE regulator has approved clinical trials for a third Omicron-specific candidate from Sinopharm, based on protein, as well as for the firm’s two inactivated Omicron-specific candidates, Sinopharm subsidiary China National Biotec Group said on Friday.
(Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Ryan Woo; Editing by William Mallard)