Abu Dhabi-based technology company Group 42 (G42) has partnered with Chinese pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm to establish a new COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing factory in the region.
The project is a step forward for Chinese diplomacy in the Gulf, and it aids the UAE’s attempts to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbon production. With three filling lines and five automated packing lines, the plant in Khalifa Industrial Zone of Abu Dhabi (KIZAD) will be able to manufacture 200 million doses per year.
While the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured in the UAE will be named Hayat-Vax, the actual inactivated vaccine will remain identical to what the UAE approved for general use in December from the Beijing Institute of Biological Product (BiBP), a unit of Sinopharm’s China National Biotec Group (CNBG). Hayat-Vax production has already started in the Ras al-Khaimah, under a collaboration between G42 and Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries PSC. The initial capacity of that production line is 2 million doses per month.
The UAE hosted Phase 3 clinical trials of the Sinopharm vaccine via G42 starting in July 2020 which were later extended to other countries in the region, including Bahrain. In September, the UAE approved the vaccine for frontline staff, and in December, it became available to the general public.
The agreement was signed during Chinese Foreign Minister Mr. Wang Yi’s two-day visit to the UAE. KIZAD will also house a purpose-built research and development center for life sciences, biotechnology, and vaccine production as part of the joint venture. G42 Chief Executive Officer Mr. Peng Xiao remarked that “our joint venture is also actively looking to bring our capabilities to new markets around the world.”
The vaccine had an 86 percent efficacy rate in UAE trials, while Sinopharm records a 79.34 percent efficacy rate based on interim results.
Sinopharm Chairman Mr. Liu Jingzhen pointed out “thanks to the close collaboration with the UAE, Sinopharm’s vaccine has been now administered to millions of people in the country, the region, and the world.”
According to the UAE health ministry, several people in the UAE failed to develop adequate antibodies after receiving a second dose of the Sinopharm vaccine and were given a third dose. It said the number was “minimal” in comparison to the number of vaccines given out.
Sinopharm Executive said that the company would need to examine the outcomes of overseas Phase 3 clinical trials before determining whether or not its two-shot vaccine should be accompanied by a booster shot.