Responding to the government’s urgent call, Chinese scientists quickly took action to tackle the COVID-19 epidemic that surprised and swept the world in early 2020.
Scientists across the country rapidly isolated and identified the whole genome sequence of the virus strain and shared this information with the World Health Organization, laying the foundation for diagnostic technology and the development of drugs and vaccines. They elucidated the key mechanisms by which the novel coronavirus invades cells and studied the virus’s transmission routes to provide scientific and technological support for prevention and control strategies.
Chinese researchers developed COVID-19 nucleic acid diagnostic reagents and immunodetection reagents at the beginning of the epidemic, which provided strong support for pathogen detection. They also constructed animal models of COVID-19 infection in mice and monkeys that provided support for drug screening, vaccine development and research on virus transmission.
The researchers revealed the clinical characteristics of COVID-19 and formulated eight iterations of the national diagnosis and treatment plan for COVID-19, which integrated traditional Chinese and western medicine. They defined clinically effective treatment methods comprising traditional Chinese and western medicine that have been used in many countries both for treatment and reference. Researchers also analyzed the structure of the novel coronavirus and its key proteins, and revealed the mechanism of action of a number of Chinese and western drugs. Furthermore, scientists proposed building easily constructed modular hospitals as well as implementing large-scale nucleic acid testing and big data tracing. All of these proposals improved treatment and cure rates while reducing infection and death rates.
In terms of vaccines and neutralizing antibodies, researchers carried out R&D on inactivated vaccines, viral vector vaccines, protein subunit vaccines and nucleic acid vaccines. China was the first in the world to carry out phase 1 clinical trials of adenovirus vector vaccines and phase 3 clinical trials of inactivated COVID-19 vaccines, which were later approved for conditional sale. Furthermore, they identified and created a series of neutralizing monoclonal antibodies targeting the COVID-19 spike protein S and receptor-binding domain RBD, thus creating a Chinese antibody “cocktail.