Industry fair shows off advances in coronavirus battle

Li Qian
Shanghai companies are making strides against COVID-19, including breakthroughs in testing, vaccine development and treatments.
Li Qian
Industry fair shows off advances in coronavirus battle
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

An automated nucleic acid extraction work station is expected to be put into use in November.

Shanghai is making progress in developing a COVID-19 vaccine, neutralizing antibody treatment and intelligent nucleic acid testing, as demonstrated at the 2020 China International Industry Fair.

Shanghai BioGerm Medical Technology Co, one of the first manufacturers of coronavirus detection reagent, is displaying its latest invention: an automated nucleic acid extraction work station.

The device can handle 96 samples per hour, while a human technician requires about three hours to test the same number.

“The device frees medical workers from risky tasks and increases efficiency,” Liang Yuting from BioGerm told Shanghai Daily. “It's expected to be put into market in November.”

Meanwhile, a candidate vaccine developed by Shanghai-based Stemirna Therapeutics is expected to be approved for clinical trials by the end of this year, Shanghai Daily learned.

Stemirna uses new mRNA technology to test vaccines based on the genetic sequence of the virus. Such vaccines mimic the virus, stimulating the immune system to produce antibodies.

Chinese scientists are now mainly focused on vaccines made from inert virus samples, while their overseas counterparts pay more attention to mRNA vaccines which represent a more promising and safer alternative. Stemirna describes itself as a Chinese leader in the development of mRNA vaccines, the company said.

Industry fair shows off advances in coronavirus battle
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A candidate mRNA vaccine developed by Shanghai-based Stemirna Therapeutics is awaiting approval for clinical trials.

Industry fair shows off advances in coronavirus battle
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Neutralizing antibody treatment developed by Shanghai Junshi Biosciences is under clinical trials in both China and the US.

JS016, another widely-anticipated weapon against the coronavirus, has started clinical trials in US following those in China, according to major developer Shanghai Junshi Biosciences.

Unlike a vaccine, neutralizing antibody treatments are believed to be able to both treat affected people and protect healthy people with high infection risks, including the elderly and medical workers, from becoming infected.

The treatment has been given to volunteers both in China and US through venous injection, becoming the first tests of neutralizing antibody treatment against the coronavirus in uninfected people. So far, trials show positive results for human use.

JS016 was isolated from recovered patients’ blood, and the antibody genes were copied and engineered through advanced technologies to work in others, the company said.

Shanghai Science and Technology Innovation Resources Center displays a new system that can detect viruses in one’s throat.

Like nucleic acid testing, the system requires respiratory samples. It can detect tens of thousands of known viruses, with results coming back within three hours.

“It can immediately alert health authorities when a new virus outbreak is still in its infancy. Prevention and timely reaction really matter,” said vice general manager Liam Li.

According to him, the system is expected to be upgraded early next year.

“More pathogenic micro-organisms such as bacteria and fungi will be involved. And the next third-generation technology can be embedded on a device the size of a USB drive,” he said. “Doctors can carry the device anywhere. After they obtain samples, they just need to insert it into computer to get the gene sequencing of pathogenic micro-organisms.”

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