SEOUL/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – China is forging ahead in the race to develop a vaccine to help control the COVID-19 pandemic, with Sinovac Biotech’s (SVA.O) experimental vaccine set to become the country’s second and the world’s third to enter final stage testing later this month.
While a laggard in the global vaccine industry, China, where the new coronavirus is thought to have originated, has brought state, military and private sectors together in a quest to combat a disease that has killed over 500,000 people worldwide.
Many other countries, including the United States, are coordinating closely with the private sector to try to win the vaccine development race, and China faces many challenges.
Its success in driving down COVID-19 infections makes it harder to conduct large-scale vaccine trials, and so far only a few other countries have agreed to work with it. After past vaccine scandals, Beijing will also have to convince the world it has met all safety and quality requirements.
But China’s use of command economy-type tools is so far yielding results.
A state-controlled entity, for example, completed two vaccine plants at what it called the “war time speed” of a couple of months, while state-owned enterprises and the military have allowed experimental shots to be used on staff.
The People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) medical research unit, which has been a driving force in China’s efforts to fight infectious diseases, is also working with private firms including CanSino (6185.HK) to develop COVID-19 vaccines.
Challenging the West’s traditional dominance of the industry, China is behind eight of the 19 vaccine candidates in human trials, with Sinovac’s experimental shot and one jointly developed by the military and CanSino among the front runners.
It is also focused mainly on inactivated vaccine technology – a technology that is well known and has been used to make vaccines against diseases such as influenza and measles – something which could raise the chances of success.
By contrast, several Western rivals such as U.S.-based Moderna (MRNA.O) and Germany’s CureVac and BioNTech (BNTX.O) are using a new technology called messenger RNA that has never before yielded a product approved by regulators.
‘Tried and true’
“It’s a tried and true strategy,” said Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, about inactivated vaccine technology.
“If I had to pick a vaccine that I think would be the most likely to be safe and effective, it would be that one,” he said. Offit is also co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine, RotaTeq, manufactured by Merck & Co Inc (MRK.N).
Four of the Chinese candidates in human trials are inactivated vaccines, including Sinovac’s and two vaccines from China National Biotec Group (CNBG), a unit of state-owned China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm).
There are currently only two experimental COVID-19 vaccines in final Phase III trials – one from Sinopharm and another from AstraZeneca (AZN.L) and the University of Oxford. Sinovac’s is set to become the third later this month.
To speed up the process, China allowed Sinopharm and Sinovac to combine Phase I and Phase II trials for their vaccine candidates.
For CanSino’s experimental vaccine, the PLA research institute played a key role, with the two working on a method using an adenovirus – a similar approach to AstraZeneca’s.
The PLA has its own approval process for “military specifically-needed drugs”, and approved the military use of the candidate developed by its research unit and CanSino last month.
PLA lead scientist Chen Wei, who has been the face of its vaccine development effort, was among the first to take the experimental COVID-19 shot developed by her team, as well as its potential SARS treatment years before, according to state media.
China has challenges, though, as the epidemic has petered out in the country, hampering efforts to conduct large trials.
It has since shifted its focus overseas, but only a handful of countries have shown willingness to collaborate – UAE, Canada, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico. Neither major European countries nor the United States have shown interest in China’s COVID-19 vaccines as they focus on their own projects.
China must also address concerns over its vaccine quality and safety issues following several here scandals here over substandard vaccines in recent years.
“The Chinese national regulatory authority has been improving its oversight,” said Jerome Kim, head of the International Vaccine Institute, a non-profit agency established as an initiative of the U.N. Development Programme.
China introduced a law last year to regulate the vaccine industry, with heavier penalties for selling and making fake or low-quality vaccines than other drug products.
Reporting and photo: Reuters
Emirates undertakes largest known fleet retrofit project
Emirates has kick-started its plans to upgrade the entire interior cabins of 120 Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft – two of the largest commercial aircraft types in service today.
This ambitious project, representing a multi-billion dollar investment to ensure Emirates’ customers “fly better” for the coming years, officially commences in November and is managed entirely by Emirates’ Engineering team.
The target is to completely retrofit four Emirates aircraft from start to finish every month, continuously for over 2 years. Once the 67 earmarked A380s are refreshed and back in service, 53 777s will undergo their facelift. This will see nearly 4,000 brand new Premium Economy seats installed, 728 First Class suites refurbished and over 5,000 Business Class seats upgraded to a new style and design when the project is complete in April 2025.
In addition, carpets and stairs will be upgraded, and cabin interior panels refreshed with new tones and design motifs including the iconic ghaf trees which are native to the UAE.
No other airline has handled a retrofit of this magnitude in-house, and there’s no blueprint for such an undertaking. Therefore Emirates Engineering teams have been planning and testing extensively, to establish and streamline processes, and identify and address any possible snags.
Trials began on an A380 in July, where experienced engineers literally took each cabin apart piece-by-piece and logged every step. From removing seats and panelling to bolts and screws, every action was tested, timed and mapped out. Potential impediments to completing the installation of Emirates’ new Premium Economy Class or the retrofit of the remaining three cabins in just 16 days were flagged and documented for expert teams to review and address.
As part of the programme, new purpose-built workshops will be set up at Emirates Engineering to repaint, re-trim and re-upholster Business and Economy Class seats with new covers and cushioning. First Class suites will be carefully disassembled and sent to a specialised company to replace the leather, arm rests and other materials.
From the trials, Engineers discovered several unexpected solutions for instance: that existing food catering trucks could be easily repurposed to move parts destined for refurbishment from the aircraft to the workshop for their refresh, as these vehicles had doors of the right width and offer sufficient space.
Until the retrofit programme starts in earnest in November, a cross-disciplinary team has been assembled to regularly review the planning process, address any issues, and track updates on various aspects of the project such as procurement, staffing, and training.
Emirates’ new Premium Economy cabin class, which offers luxurious seats, more legroom, and a service to rival many airlines’ business offering, is currently available to Emirates customers travelling on popular A380 routes to London, Paris, Sydney. More customers will be able to experience the airline’s new Premium Economy cabins starting from year end, as the retrofit programme picks up momentum.
Eleanor helps over 30 Maldives hotels elevate guest services
Eleanor has been named as one of the top 10 concierge software providers globally.
Based on accurate, timely reviews from real users, the HotelTechAwards rank the world’s best hotel software firms and products and it also provides hoteliers direct access to a growing network of hotel technology professionals and decision-makers.
“The guest experience is the cornerstone of our platform. Our unified resort wide solution, Eleanor, has been built for resorts off the back of many years working in the industry and addresses the needs of both Sales and Marketing departments and perhaps just as importantly, the operational requirements of the team on the ground at the property. The days of resorts working with disjointed systems are now behind us,” says Darren Caple, co-founder and CEO.
“We are on a mission to make the guest’s resort experience as easy and as frictionless as possible. Whereas traditional providers in the market have come at this purely from a guest communication perspective, our background in resorts has allowed us to combine this basic requirement with the streamlining of operational processes. The result is truly a resort wide solution that removes the need for countless different systems to be deployed.
Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. More than 30 properties in the Maldives use our Eleanor platform to help butlers and guest services elevate the guest experience. These properties are seeing an increase in incremental revenue by over 30% and operational efficiencies of 600+ man hours per month. We are also beginning to roll out the platform in some Caribbean properties!”
Eleanor is making waves in the hospitality industry by pushing the conventional limits of what a resort guest app can achieve through its unique ability to facilitate direct bookings for services and activities. The traditional ‘request to book’ feature that is common amongst almost all other hotel apps is removed by a power booking and operational platform sitting at the heart of the solution that covers all the resorts’ departments. It’s this module which realises enormous operational benefits and insights for the resort.
“We, at Eleanor, are humbled and honoured that our clients have provided such positive reviews. Feedback from our clients, partners and hoteliers are incredibly valuable for us and we will continue to improve our offering and services”, said Caple.
To celebrate this success, Eleanor is currently offering resorts a free one month trial, together with free setup and training and discounted monthly fees.
Eleanor, founded in 2018 and has its headquarters in the United Kingdom. Created from over 15 years of hands-on expertise, Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to its guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. Eleanor also helps to unlock operational efficiencies and boost incremental revenue and guest loyalty.
Hotel Tech Report’s Best Concierge Software 2022 Runner Up, reviewed as a preferred and reliable hotel software product by the global hotelier community.
For more information, visit www.eleanorapp.com.
Emirates’ recruiters scour the world for cabin crew talent with 30 city stops
Emirates, the world’s most global airline, is seeking talented people with a passion for service to join its award-winning cabin crew team.
As air travel returns with a vengeance, the airline’s recruiters are busy meeting and hiring candidates in 30 cities from now until the end of June. In this latest drive, Emirates’ teams will travel from Australia to the UK, and dozens of European cities in between, as well as Cairo, Algiers, Tunis and Bahrain.
Abdulaziz Al Ali, Emirates Group’s Executive Vice President for Human Resources said: “There’s no more exciting airline than Emirates for anyone interested in a flying career, and we’ve received tremendous interest since we began our recruitment drive for cabin crew in November.”
“While parts of the application process are done online, we always make the effort to meet our candidates in person whenever we can, and that is why our Talent Acquisition team is doing a whirlwind 30-city tour over the next 6 weeks to assess prospective candidates.”
Emirates’ truly global cabin crew team represent 160 nationalities, reflecting its customer mix and international operations in over 130 cities on six continents.
All Emirates crew are based in the exciting cosmopolitan city of Dubai, with company-provided accommodation, tax-free salary and more benefits.
Interested candidates can read more about the Emirates cabin crew role, and apply online at: https://www.emiratesgroupcareers.com/cabin-crew/
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