China, France bid for SARS vaccine

Research teams from Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland and France are working together to try and validate a SARS vaccine.

The vaccine was developed by the Hong Kong University Pasteur Research Centre. Now the centre is working with mainland researchers and the Institut Pasteur of France to validate the development.

The aim is to test out the SARS vaccine on animals by the end of the year with the hope of a fully developed product in two years. The research began in March when the SARS virus was identified, the Hong Kong research centre said yesterday.

The project has focused on the development of a subunit vaccine, which uses only a small portion of the outer virus shell, such as the spike protein of the SARS virus, said the centre. A number of approaches could be taken to develop a SARS vaccine, while subunit vaccines are generally safe and have been successful in controlling the Hepatitis B virus and certain animal viruses.

The centre said it is producing various forms of the spike molecule from the SARS virus to be tested as a vaccine in animals, accompanied by intensive research on various immune responses against the virus.

"We will first conduct tests on monkeys, followed by tests on human subjects, and we hope that this approach will be effective," said Professor Ralf Altmeyar at the research centre.

"We should acknowledge the remarkable work that was carried out in Hong Kong to fight SARS, and our teams in the territory and in Paris will continue with our research efforts, while we expect future partnerships with the industrial sector to produce the vaccine," said Institut Pasteur's Professor Philippe Kourilsky.



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