Since the first case of COVID-19 in the UAE, in late January, the country has led a swift response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Masdar City in Abu Dhabi stepped up to become a centre for high-volume testing, a first outside of China, with a capacity to test thousands of people per day.
To date, the UAE has one of the highest testing rates for COVID-19 in the world with more than four million tests conducted according to the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention.
Solidarity and development
Health authorities in Abu Dhabi and Beijing recently announced a partnership between the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm, and Group 42, the Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence and cloud computing company.
The two partners say this will kick off the beginning of the phase III clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine, to test whether it is effective and safe to use.
These clinical trials were approved by Dr. Abdul Rahman bin Mohammed bin Nasser Al Owais, the UAE Minister of Health and Prevention.
Many American and European companies are also developing potential vaccines, Euronews asked Ashish Koshy, the CEO of Group 42 Healthcare, why a partnership with China is a best fit for the UAE.
“Sinopharm has two products, two inactivated vaccines in the top ten race,” says the CEO. “And that’s the essential synergy we saw that felt like a definitely strong partner that we could bring into UAE, bring in the capability to the UAE, and give early access to the UAE residents.”
Other governments and organizations around the world are investing resources in the discovery of a possible vaccine for COVID-19, however, Koshy believes that the search for a cure is not a race.
“It’s a global effort together against this global pandemic. Every country needs to play its part in participating,” he tells Inspire Middle East’s Rebecca McLaughlin-Eastham.
Group 42 is currently sequencing COVID-19 in their genomics laboratory with the goal of understanding the vaccine’s impact on humans and the virus alike
The company has also developed an AI platform to identify patterns in the virus’s mutation during the phase III trials, and determine its efficacy.
“We have a plethora of data where people can plug in and come up with incredible insights that could figure out how the virus mutates and thus, potentially, the vaccine with an answer to cure that COVID-19,” explains Koshy.
The collaborative vaccine has already passed phases I and II. Phase II trials concluded with 100 percent of volunteers generating antibodies after two doses in 28 days, according to Koshy.
Koshy confirms that now in phase III, the company is targeting a group of some 5,000 volunteers to test the vaccine in the UAE.
If confirmed safe and effective, the drug will go for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, and if positive, the company will enter the last large-scale manufacturing phase.
The company’s involved are hopeful that a vaccine may enter the market by the end of 2020 or early 2021.
Currently the UAE has registered about 55,000 cases of COVID-19 as it continues its efforts to combat the pandemic.
SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA: COMRADERY
Hassan from Lebanon tackles his country’s pandemic with his colleagues.
With contributions from Nancy Sarkis and Arthur de Oliveira.