Chris Chen, Managing Director at China WuXi Biologics, expects a Covid-19 antibody treatment to be approved either “late this year or early next year,” he told CNBC.
WuXi Biologics, which sells outsourced laboratory and manufacturing services to biotech companies, has signed multiple contracts with customers to research antibodies for the delivery of coronavirus treatments.
“We are working on 10 neutralizing antibodies and also a Covid-19 vaccine. There are some important advances in these treatments,” he told Emily Tan, speaking to CNBC at the annual East Tech West conference.
In a reference to the recent Food and Drug Administration approval for the emergency use of Eli Lillys According to Chen, there is a high likelihood that one of the antibody treatments WuXi is developing will receive such an emergency clearance “later this year or early next year.”
An FDA emergency clearance permits the use of an otherwise unapproved medical treatment or vaccine during a state of emergency such as a pandemic.
As Covid-19 vaccines become more readily available, supply chain problems mean that it is “a major challenge for the industry to come together and dispense so many doses”.
“Some of the vaccines have a storage problem and need to be stored in a freezer at minus 70, which is usually not the case in a hospital,” he said. Some vaccines are facing raw material shortages due to the pandemic, he added.
Read more about the vaccines
Others in the industry have raised similar concerns the problems to be overcome before mass production and distribution can begin.
The new Covid-19 vaccine from the USA Pfizer and Germany BioNTech In a final data analysis, Covid-19 was found to be 95% effective, but it requires a storage temperature of -34 ° C (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit).
The vaccine from Cambridge, Massachusetts Moderna, announced this week and similarly effective, remains stable for up to 30 days at 2 to 8 ° C (36 to 46 ° F) – the temperature of a normal household or medical refrigerator. It can be stored at -20 ° C for up to six months.
Despite the difficulties, Chen said recent developments showed that “we can respond quickly to the threat.”
“It usually takes about 5 to 8 years to develop vaccines or antibody treatments,” he said. “Now, this year, it will all come together in about 12 to 18 months because of Covid-19.”
WuXi Biologics, which has operations in the US, Europe and Singapore in addition to China, will continue to invest in global biotech companies, he said.
China has made great strides in health care, but “there is still a lot of catching up to do,” said Chen.
The United States “has invested a lot in research, and Europe is doing the same. China is still lagging behind when you look at investment in research infrastructure,” he said. “Whether China can compete globally and effectively remains to be seen.”