Candidate vaccine approved for human trials . . .
On Tuesday, the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) announced that it is collaborating with CanSino Biologics Inc., a Chinese biopharmaceutical company, to advance bioprocessing and clinical development in Canada of a candidate vaccine against COVID-19. CanSino’s vaccine candidate—Ad5-nCoV—was approved for human trails by the Chinese government earlier this year and is one of only a handful of candidates worldwide to be approved for human trials. This not the first collaboration between the two parties. In 2013, they partnered in using HEK293 cell lines developed and designed by the NRC to develop an Ebola vaccine. HEK293 cell lines will be used again in developing a possible COVID-19 vaccine. The Canadian government has allocated C$44 million to upgrade the NRC’s facilities in Montreal and scale up vaccine production.
Public opinion towards China hits historic low . . .
This promising collaboration is taking place against the backdrop of Canadian views of China hitting a historic low. According to a recent Angus Reid Institute survey, only 14 per cent of Canadians have a positive view of China – less than half of those who viewed China positively in 2019 (29%). These increasingly negative views are related to the Chinese government’s perceived malfeasance in its handling of COVID-19. Eighty-five per cent of participants in the survey felt that the Chinese government has not been honest about what has happened in its own country.
Collaboration continues despite negative views . . .
Public opinion can shape relations between countries, as officials need to show responsiveness to what the public wants. But the collaboration between NRC and CanSino shows the importance of pursuing projects in the public interest in spite of the political climate. Two factors underlie this collaboration. First, NRC and CanSino have a longstanding relationship and have built up a foundation of trust. Second, both parties share a common interest—developing a COVID-19 vaccine. These two factors—mutual trust and shared goals—could be a simple recipe for motivating other cases of constructive Canada-China collaboration.