New COVID-19 drugs 'breakthrough' for China pharma industry
Chen Tong

In January, China's drug authority granted conditional market approval for two new domestically developed drugs to treat COVID-19, marking a major milestone in the country's development of antiviral medicine.

One of them is VV116, an anti-viral medication for use in adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms.

Early clinical data suggests the drug can significantly shorten the duration of the disease when compared to a placebo, with a lower incidence of adverse side-effects.

Professor Shen Jingshan from Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and his research team have been developing the medicine since January 2020.

Prof. Shen told CGTN the drug is effective against all the known COVID-19 variants.

"We tested on all of the variants of the virus – Delta and Omicron. We found it kept the same level of activity. So, we predicted the two drugs will be effective in future for all variants," Shen said. "But it's just a prediction based on our scientific data."

The clinical tests and marketing of VV116 are being conducted by the pharmaceutical companies Junshi Biosciences and Vigonvita Life Sciences.

Production of the drug is under way and the first batches are expected to be delivered within a month.

Professor Shen Jingshan and his team at Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica. /CGTN
Professor Shen Jingshan and his team at Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica. /CGTN

Professor Shen Jingshan and his team at Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica. /CGTN

The second drug – also a small-molecule oral treatment – is Xiannuoxin, co-developed by Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica and Simcere Pharmaceutical Group.

The two new medications have been described as a breakthrough in China's pharmaceutical industry.

Zhao Dahai, executive director of Yale-Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Center for Health Policy, said the successful development of antiviral drugs has shown that drug research has improved greatly in China.

"More than 95 percent of domestic chemical drugs are generic drugs. Chinese companies try to change the current situation. It's really a breakthrough," said Zhao.

With conditional approval from China's National Medical Products Administration comes the requirement that the pharmaceutical companies should continue testing the drugs and submit follow-up results.

(Cover: VV116, or Mindewei, is an oral small-molecule antiviral drug. /CGTN)

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