TORONTO (Reuters) – China’s CanSino Biologics Inc <6185.HK>, the company behind one of the few coronavirus vaccine candidates already in clinical trials, is collaborating with Canada’s National Research Council to “pave the way” for future trials in Canada, the research council said on Tuesday.

The NRC said it would scale up a production process for CanSino’s vaccine at a government facility in Montreal, and that CanSino was preparing a trial application for drug regulator Health Canada.

If CanSino’s vaccine works, the collaboration could help ensure that Canadians have access to it. Local trial data could reassure Health Canada that the vaccine is safe, and local manufacturing could ensure some doses are at hand.

Asked whether the collaboration would make it possible for Health Canada to consider data gathered in China, NRC said that in general, data can be shared with the regulator’s approval.

“Canadian clinical trials will expand on Chinese data and provide an enhanced understanding of the vaccine candidate’s safety profile,” the agency said.

A vaccine that protects people from the coronavirus could end the pandemic, but finding one that works and manufacturing enough doses is a huge challenge.

Relations between Canada and China have been strained since Canadian authorities arrested Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on Dec. 1, 2018 at the request of the United States. Her arrest infuriated the Chinese government, which subsequently detained two Canadian citizens – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – on state security charges.

But in the midst of the pandemic, Canada has struggled to import protective equipment from the United States, turning in part to suppliers in China. A federal procurement website notes that Canada has “established on-the-ground support in China” to manage bulk purchases.

CanSino and the NRC have worked together since 2013, and the company’s vaccine is produced using a cell line that was developed at the NRC, the agency said.

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CanSino Chairman Xuefeng Yu worked in Canada from 1996 to 2009, according to the company’s website, mainly for Sanofi.

Shares of Hong Kong-listed CanSino rose on April 26 after the company said Health Canada had agreed to meet to discuss a clinical trial application.

Separately on Tuesday, Canada promised C$600 million to replenish the GAVI vaccine alliance, to support routine vaccinations around the world. GAVI is also helping low-income countries respond to coronavirus outbreaks.

(Reporting by Allison Martell; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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