Sinovac scores $9.6M Chinese grant for new hand, foot and mouth disease vaccine

With concerns over hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) mounting over the past few years, China has made moves to support the development of a vaccine for one of its causes, enterovirus 71 (EV71). Local company Sinovac ($SVA) will benefit from the country's efforts, it said Thursday, announcing that the government has approved a ¥60 million ($9.6 million) grant that will go toward the production and commercialization of the company's EV71 candidate.

Specifically, Sinovac will use that sum, supported by the Dedicated Funds for Strategic New Emerging Industry Development, to construct a manufacturing facility with an annual capacity of 20 million doses and to bring the jab to market. The government hopes that will help stem the HFMD epidemic, which has seen more than 9 million cases and about 2,700 reported fatalities since 2007, according to Sinovac CEO Weidong Yin.

"With the government support for building out the dedicated production capacity, Sinovac is poised to provide the EV71 vaccine to help address this potentially fatal childhood disease for which no commercialized vaccine and no EV71 specific treatment exist. The grant provides the confidence and encouragement that EV71 vaccine is urgently needed and has attracted the attention from the Chinese government," he said in a statement.

Sinovac's vaccine, under review by China's Centers for Drug Evaluation after the company's NDA submission last May, turned out Phase III data showing a 95% efficacy rate in March of last year. But Sinovac's success will depend on its competition. A handful of other companies also have vaccines in the works, and China's National Major Infections Disease Program has funded development of its own vaccine, which offered 90% efficacy against EV71-associated HFMD in a Phase III study.

This is not the only boost Sinovac has gotten from the government as of late. Last month, the company reported that government stockpiling of its H5N1 vaccine fueled fourth-quarter sales growth of 17%; with that shot excluded, sales fell almost 20%.

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