An Emirati technology company has formed a partnership with a Chinese medical firm to develop and test a Coronavirus vaccine in the UAE.
Group 42 (G42) will carry out clinical trials under the supervision of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Health, Wam, the state news agency, announced this week.
The partnership between G42 and China National Biotec Group was formally launched this week at ceremonies in Abu Dhabi, Beijing and Wuhan.
Trials in the UAE mark the third phase of testing of the vaccine, which has been developed by Wuhan Institute of Biological Products. Two earlier phases of testing carried out in China have shown promising results. Patients developed antibodies to the virus without experiencing any adverse side effects or reactions.
Details about the Emirati trials have not been made public but if successful, the vaccine could be mass produced in the UAE.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Hamed, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Health, said the partnership between G42 and the Chinese was an example of the UAE’s “broad, multi-faceted approach to combating the virus”.
He added: “The UAE will spare no effort in contributing to solutions to the current pandemic — solutions that will aid humanity’s ability to overcome the current pandemic.”
G42 has been a key player in tackling the pandemic from the start, building the world’s second-largest testing laboratory in Masdar City with capacity to process tens of thousands of tests each day.
The potential vaccine is administered to patients in two doses. The earlier clinical trials took place in central China’s Henan province in April and involved 1,120 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 59.
Phase Three of clinical trials involves testing the vaccine on a larger group of people — typically around 3,000. As is typical of a double-blind drug trial, some of the participants are given the drug while others are given a placebo. Sometimes even the researchers are not told which volunteers are being given.
China is working on five potential coronavirus vaccines, a fraction of more than 90 potential vaccines undergoing development around the world. However only a few likely to make it into mass vaccination programs.
Abdulrahman Al Owais, the UAE’s Minister of Health and Prevention, said co-operation between scientists and innovators from all nations was needed “now more than ever”.
In an online health summit earlier this week, the Minister said the diversity of the UAE’s population was proving to be its biggest advantage in combating the virus, because the country’s 200 nationalities meant “200 different experiences and knowledge”.
The research partnership between an Emirati and a Chinese company was another example of the UAE welcoming “all contributions by countries of the world”, he said.
Meanwhile, this week the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi urged residents to cooperate with the National Screening Program teams who are conducting COVID-19 tests throughout the emirate.
The teams have already started their work, focusing on areas with high population density and those who are most vulnerable to complications, including the elderly and people with chronic diseases. According to Wam, they will expand their testing reach to cover the entire emirate.
“We urge the cooperation of all citizens and residents with the screening teams to enable them to perform their tasks with ease and efficiency, to successfully complete the programme,” said Dr. Jamal Mohammed Al Kaabi, Acting Undersecretary of the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi. “These are precautionary measures to ensure the safety of our communities, and limit the spread of the virus.”
Anna Pukas has reported from all over the world as a foreign correspondent for British media. She is now an editor based in Abu Dhabi.