The largest armed force in the world, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), is not known for its cutting edge medical research. But since 2015, it has ramped up recruitment of scientists, and investment in the field as part of its strategy to modernize its military. Now, the coronavirus pandemic is showcasing the PLA's growing expertise in medical research, including a major role in developing the coronavirus vaccine that was the first in the world to be approved for restricted use.
“China is definitely trying to leverage the crisis from a PR perspective,” says Abigail Coplin, who studies China’s biotechnology industry at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York.
Medical researcher Major General Chen Wei at the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology — part of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences — led the team that developed the vaccine, which included collaborators from government agencies, universities and the Tianjin-based pharmaceutical company CanSino Biologics.
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