PLA top epidemiologist-led team achieves breakthrough in COVID-19 vaccine R&D: report

Global Times
Chen Zhuo
2020-03-04 08:09:44
Chen Wei, academician at the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Academy of Military Medical Sciences File Photo: Xinhua App

A research team led by a Chinese military major general who is a veteran in fighting SARS and Ebola has achieved a major breakthrough in developing a vaccine to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Chinese military media reported on Tuesday.

The military medical expert team has worked in Wuhan, the coronavirus epicenter, for more than a month, and the team led by Chen Wei, academician at the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Academy of Military Medical Sciences, is seizing every minute and second and focusing all efforts on this emergency scientific research,, a news website affiliated with the PLA, reported on Tuesday.

Chen's team has achieved a key progress in developing a vaccine to the novel coronavirus, the report said.

Chen, 53 who is also a PLA major general, used to develop the world's first gene-based vaccine on the Ebola in 2014.

Chen was well-known for her efforts in combatting the SARS outbreak from 2002 to 2003, and her research on broad-spectrum antiviral drug had played a key role in fighting the disease, according to domestic industry news site She also worked as the head of epidemic prevention and control work during the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008 and led the team in working on Ebola vaccine in 2014.

The news soon made headlines on Tuesday night on Chinese social media, cheering Chinese netizens up amid the epidemic with many praising the effectiveness and sense of responsibility of the PLA researchers.

Since January 24, the Chinese military sent out more than 4,000 medical workers to support Wuhan amid the outbreak and recorded zero infection and played active role in working on scientific research, according to a press conference on Monday. The work included joint research on nucleic acid testing kits for fast testing, medicine research, antibodies and vaccines research.

In a CCTV news footage aired on Tuesday night, Chen said they have been encourage by the Chinese top leader's comments on accelerating scientific research and development (R&D) in combatting the deadly virus by coming up with more self-developed core technology products with the aim of safeguarding public health and security, especially making major breakthroughs in vaccine development.

Chen was quoted as saying in the media report that vaccines are special products, which is highly critical for epidemic prevention and control work. "We must strive to bring the vaccine we are working on to clinical trial and application, providing strong technological support for winning this battle," she said.

In an interview with the China Science Daily on January 30, Chen said that although scientists around the world are working painstakingly on developing vaccine against the COVID-19, it is unrealistic to create vaccines within one month as some media reported.

"But some excellent teams may do better and faster. US President Donald Trump said in late January a vaccine could be developed within the next few months. I believe Chinese research fellow would not lag behind the US counterparts," Chen said.

Even the virus mutates as time goes by, researchers can quickly improve vaccines by identifying unchanged target antigen and receptor via big data, according to Chen.

Clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine could be just six weeks away, US Vice President Mike Pence said on Fox New Channel's "Sunday Morning Futures." However, Anthony Fauci, a top official at the National Institute of Health said last week that it would take between 12 and 18 months to create a vaccine that successfully treats COVID-19.

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