São Paulo Governor João Doria announced today on social media that the state-run Butantan Biological Institute will partner up with Sinovac Biotech, a privately held Beijing-based lab, to produce a Covid-19 vaccine. Mr. Doria claims the potential vaccine is entering its “final phase of testing.”
“Today is a historic day for science in Brazil and São Paulo,” the governor declared on Twitter. He promised to provide more details about the project later today (and we will update this post).
Reopening its economy before significantly flattening the Covid-19 curve, Brazil risks an explosion of coronavirus infections and deaths — and will need a scientific breakthrough in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis.
Covid-19 vaccine, Made in China
Sinovac Biotech became the first pharmaceutical company able to protect an animal — rhesus macaques — from infection by the coronavirus, Science Mag reported on April 23.
The company administered doses of their potential vaccine to eight monkeys. Three weeks later, researchers introduced SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, into the animals’ lungs. According to reports, none of the monkeys developed a full-blown infection, with those administered with the highest dosage having the best response.
Several of the animals given lower doses had a “viral blip” but also appeared to have gotten the infection under control, the Sinovac team reports in a paper published on April 19 on the preprint server bioRxiv. (A peer-reviewed version of the study was published on May 6 by Science.)
While the results seem promising, many experts are urging caution. Douglas Reed, a microbiology professor at the University of Pittsburgh, says the number of animals was too small to yield statistically significant results.Support this coverage →