HKU State Key Laboratory for Emerging Infectious Diseases co-developed COVID-19 vaccine candidate approved for clinical trial in humans

The State Key Laboratory for Emerging Infectious Diseases of the University of Hong Kong (the SKL) has partnered with Xiamen University and Wantai Biopharmaceutical company to rapidly develop a vaccine candidate against COVID-19.

The vaccine candidate has been approved by China’s National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) for clinical trial in humans.

The outbreak of SARS-CoV2, first emerged in Wuhan, Mainland China in December 2019, has led to the first documented coronavirus pandemic in human history as declared by World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2020 (Mahase, 2020). More than 20 million laboratory-confirmed cases and over 800,000 deaths have been recorded globally to date ( The impact on human health, societal stability and economic development is clear and significant, and the outcome of this pandemic is still unpredictable.

Vaccination is considered to be the most effective way to prevent infection and to alleviate the disease burden and mortality associated with infection. Multiple vaccine strategies are being developed and currently in various stages of clinical evaluation. In response to the outbreak of SARS-CoV2, researchers at HKU have developed a vaccine candidate based on the established flu-based DelNS1 live attenuated influenza virus (LAIV) platform. This vaccine strategy has several unique properties:

  • It is a flu-based vaccine and can combine with any seasonal flu vaccine strains.
  • It is live attenuated with the deletion of the key virulent element and immune antagonist, NS1, from the viral genome and is potentially more immunogenic than wild type influenza virus.
  • It can be produced in chicken embryonated eggs and MDCK cells which are proven production systems for influenza vaccines.
  • Its features are highly safe and is used as nasal spray to induce specific immunity in the airway of humans.

This vaccine strategy has been selected as one of the five vaccine technologies by the Ministry of Science and Technology of China for further evaluation. This flu-based COVID-19 vaccine is approved for clinical trial in humans, and is the first nasal spray COVID-19 vaccine to be tested in humans.

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