Phase III trials with a COVID-19 vaccine in Abu Dhabi with up to 15,000 volunteers, the government said in the capital of the United Arab Emirates on Thursday.
The Human Study is a partnership between Sinopharm's China National Biotec Group (CNBG), Abu Dhabi-based company 42 (G42) for Artificial Intelligence and Cloud Computing, and the Abu Dhabi Ministry of Health.
The study, which started on Wednesday, is the world's first phase III study with an inactivated vaccine, said Ashish Koshy, CEO of G42 Healthcare. Inactivated vaccines are known and have been used against diseases such as influenza and measles.
A COVID-19 vaccine has not yet been approved for commercial use. According to a WHO summary of the state of the art of vaccine development for COVID-19, there are 23 potential vaccines in human trials, three of which start or begin in large-scale late stage or phase III studies to test efficacy.
The study tested two vaccine strains and a placebo. Two doses three weeks apart are administered and the volunteers are followed for a year, said Nawal Alkaabi, head of the UAE's COVID-19 Clinical Management Committee.
Initially, around 15,000 volunteers will be hired in Abu Dhabi over a period of three to six months. They will be 18 to 60 years old with no serious medical problems and no previous COVID-19 infection, said Alkaabi.
Sinopharm chose the United Arab Emirates because it has around 200 different nationalities and focuses on medical research and fighting the pandemic, said Koshy.
The UAE claims to have conducted more than 4 million coronavirus infection tests on a population of approximately 9.6 million. Almost 56,000 infections and 335 deaths were registered.
Sinopharm received approval for the process in late June. The experimental vaccine passed phases I and II of clinical trials in which 100% of the volunteers raised antibodies within 28 days after two doses, the Abu Dhabi government said.
China has been looking for potential vaccines overseas as there are no new patients at home. China's Sinovac Biotech is conducting phase III trials with a vaccine in Brazil.
Sinopharm and G42 have no access to patient data in the study being conducted in Abu Dhabi state hospitals, said Walid Zaher, research director at G42 Healthcare, adding that the UAE intends to produce a resulting successful vaccine.
G42 is an Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence company that, in collaboration with the Chinese genomics company BGI, has set up a COVID-19 test laboratory in the Emirate and developed disease-fighting technologies with Israeli contractors.
Koshy said the company was privately owned, but declined to say who.
Like other Gulf States, the UAE has built close ties with China, looking for capital and technology to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbon revenue.
However, the United States' main ally has warned the Gulf States to exercise caution and examine their relationship with Washington.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)