Fosun hopes to launch BioNTech and Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine in China at the same time as US and Europe, Guo Guangchang says

Daniel Ren
·3-min read

Guo Guangchang, the billionaire chairman of Fosun International, said he was hopeful that a Covid-19 vaccine candidate his company is trying to bring to the mainland will become available in China as soon as it hits shelves in the United States and Europe.

“We hope the market launch of the vaccine in China will be held at the same time as in the US and Europe,” he told the South China Morning Post on the sidelines of the China International Import Expo on Friday. “Or, at least, the timing of its launch in China will be just a little bit behind them.”

Guo was referring to the mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccine, known as BNT162, which has been developed by German next-generation immunotherapy company BioNTech and US pharmaceutical firm Pfizer. Fosun, one of China’s biggest private-sector conglomerates, agreed in March to pay up to US$135 million towards the vaccine’s development and for the exclusive right to commercialise it in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

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BioNTech and Pfizer are conducting a late-stage global clinical trial with about 44,000 participants in more than 130 centres. Pfizer will apply to the US Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use authorisation when safety data is available in the third week of November. A combined annual capacity of 1.3 billion doses will be operational next year.

In an interview with the Post last month, Ugur Sahin, the co-founder and chief executive of BioNTech, said the world could start to see the effects of vaccination on the coronavirus pandemic as early as the second quarter of 2021.

Guo Guangchang, the chairman of Fosun International. Photo: Thomas Yau
Guo Guangchang, the chairman of Fosun International. Photo: Thomas Yau

Unlike typical vaccines, which use either dead or weakened forms of viruses to jump-start the body’s natural defences, the mRNA vaccine relies on RNA to start the production of proteins that are similar enough to the virus to trigger the development of antibodies effective against the actual target.

Guo, 53, who is ranked 72nd on the Hurun China Rich List 2020 with a net worth of 57 billion yuan (US$8.6 billion), said the vaccine would be affordable and acceptable to most Chinese people. He said that Fosun and its partners had a strong desire to build facilities to produce the mRNA vaccine locally and cheaply.

The shots had not been priced yet for China, but two doses were expected to cost US$40 on aggregate in the US. Moreover, a pilot inoculation programme in China’s eastern Zhejiang province involving a vaccine developed by Beijing-based pharmaceutical company Sinovac cost 400 yuan for two injections.

Fosun will not conduct further clinical trials of the vaccine candidate in China after completing early-stage trials in the country in August. Instead, it will seek approval from mainland authorities for its use based on final-stage clinical trials elsewhere, Guo said.

“Since China has contained the pandemic, the late-phase clinical trials of all Chinese-developed Covid-19 vaccines are being conducted around the globe,” he said. “What I can say is that a vaccine developed in collaboration with global partners does not necessarily need to be tested on humans in China before getting approval for use in the country.

“Strengthened international cooperation and the integration of global scientific resources are key to success in fighting the coronavirus,” he added.

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