CanSino Biologics, a prominent Chinese vaccine manufacturer, is actively seeking new vaccine contracts following its recent collaboration with AstraZeneca on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology vaccine production. This strategic move aims to diversify revenue streams amid declining demand for COVID-19 vaccines.
CanSino initiated its research into mRNA technology back in 2018 and has since established a facility in Shanghai capable of producing up to 200 million vaccine doses annually. This capacity positions the company to offer similar services to other entities, as stated by CanSino’s CEO and co-founder, Xuefeng Yu, in a recent interview with Reuters.
“This is just the beginning,” Yu remarked, referring to the AstraZeneca partnership announced earlier this month as a “business model.” He continued, “We are in discussions not only with multinational corporations but also with partners in regions like Malaysia, Indonesia, Mexico, Argentina, and any market that may require our technology and products.”
While AstraZeneca and CanSino have confirmed their collaboration to support early-stage investigational mRNA vaccines, detailed specifics of the partnership remain undisclosed.
CanSino, renowned for its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in countries including China and Mexico, experienced a surge in revenue in 2021 during the height of the pandemic. However, like many industry peers, the company has witnessed a sharp decline in sales as COVID vaccine demand waned.
The company’s revenue relies heavily on COVID and meningococcal vaccines. In its recent financial report, CanSino disclosed a gross loss of 776.5 million yuan ($106.5 million) for the first half of the year, primarily attributed to reduced COVID vaccine sales and write-downs of unsold COVID vaccines.
Inhalable Vaccine Innovation
CEO Yu anticipates no further significant write-offs related to unsold COVID vaccines. Instead, the company has paused clinical trials for mRNA COVID vaccine candidates and is exploring alternative applications of the technology for combating other diseases. Additionally, CanSino is assessing potential uses for its Tianjin-based factory, responsible for producing its COVID vaccine.
Yu elaborated, “This facility shares the same platform technology with other vaccines and could readily be repurposed for other vaccine production.” CanSino’s pipeline includes vaccines targeting various infections and diseases, such as tetanus and polio.
Notably, CanSino gained attention last year when its inhalable version of the COVID vaccine received approval for use in China. The company is currently developing an inhalable vaccine for the zoster virus, based on the strong mucosal immunization and robust immune response stimulated by the inhalable COVID vaccine.
In recent weeks, China’s healthcare industry has faced increased scrutiny from Chinese regulators launching an anti-corruption campaign targeting widespread graft and bribery in sales practices. CEO Yu refrained from commenting on the campaign’s impact, emphasizing that CanSino remains committed to compliance with regulations and has a dedicated audit and compliance team reporting directly to him. Yu expressed hope that the campaign would steer the industry toward ethical practices.