In early 2020, the Beijing Institute of Biological Products created an inactivated coronavirus vaccine called BBIBP-CorV. Clinical trials run by the state-owned company Sinopharm showed that it had an efficacy rate of 79 percent. China approved the vaccine and soon began exporting it to other countries.
BBIBP-CorV works by teaching the immune system to make antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The antibodies attach to viral proteins, such as the so-called spike proteins that stud its surface.
To create BBIBP-CorV, the Beijing Institute researchers obtained three variants of the coronavirus from patients in Chinese hospitals. They picked one of the variants because it was able to multiply quickly in monkey kidney cells grown in bioreactor tanks.
Killing the Virus
Once the researchers produced large stocks of the coronaviruses, they doused them with a chemical called beta-propiolactone. The compound disabled the coronaviruses by bonding to their genes. The inactivated coronaviruses could no longer replicate. But their proteins, including spike, remained intact.