This contest is as much about prestige, as about saving millions of lives and earning billions of dollars. For China, it is also about redemption, given its inexplicable delay in informing the world about the outbreak. The Chinese see themselves against a US effort triggered by President Trump’s call, in mid-May, for developing a vaccine at ‘warp speed’. To meet the target of a vaccine by October — in part motivated by the US elections in November — the US’s Biomedical Advanced Research & Development Authority (BARDA) said they would provide $1.2 billion support to Oxford University-AstraZeneca to deliver 300 doses of their potential vaccine by the end of September. As of now, there are 224 candidate vaccines in development globally, according to the data collected by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). While North America has the largest number of projects, China is the furthest along the track with five vaccines in phase II human trials, more than any other country. Of the 10 vaccines that are at the stage of human trials, six are Chinese, and it is the only country with a vaccine which has advanced to phase II. The effort is seeing innovative approaches and new kinds of partnerships to ensure that, when certified, the vaccine will be available at the fastest speed and most widely distributed. Technology has always been a major element in global power equations. Some of it has been good, and some bad. In some cases like nuclear power, it has both facets. But now, for the first time, we may be seeing biotechnology emerge as a factor as well.
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