Providing access to quality vaccines in low- and middle-income countries

Market Access
access to quality vaccines

CanSino Biologics Inc. appointed Dr Pierre Armand Morgon its senior vice president of international business operations in January 2020, transitioning from his previous role of Independent Non-executive Director at the Board of the company where he especially supported the IPO at the Hong Kong stock exchange.

By early 2022, CanSinoBIO Switzerland was created as an additional subsidiary, and Morgon became its managing director for Europe. Now executive vice president of portfolio strategy and ‘supranational affairs’ - interfacing with large organisations driving vaccination policy and procurement, such as the WHO, UNICEF, Gavi, CEPI, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - he is responsible for the company’s business operations in Europe and in supranational markets.

A commitment to public health, from China to the world

Recognised as one of the top 50 vaccine influencers back in 2013, Morgon’s appointment could signify CanSinoBIO's further commitment to global development growth for the good of global public health. 

Morgon’s first position in the vaccine industry goes back to 1986, and he has also been working in the small molecules world alongside that, and now has over 20 years in the vaccines field, either as an executive or as a board member, as well as a small investor in start-up companies in the sector. In fact, he and chairman and CEO of 2009-founded CanSinoBIO, Xuefeng Yu, were colleagues together in the early days of their careers.

Vaccine policy and market access are Morgon’s forte and his latest appointment shows that CanSinoBIO has a clear vision and defined intent to provide quality vaccines to emerging countries, to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), but also that the company is willing to get ready to interface with those markets, and venture outside of China. 

Commercialisation of improved and innovative vaccines

Endeavouring to build and strengthen a solid knowledge base across several platforms is essential, in order to be able to operate in the field of vaccines across a range of target pathogens, from bacterial to viral, and possibly even parasitic disorders – including COVID-19, Ebola, tuberculosis, meningitis, pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus, and shingles. CanSinoBIO is committed to LMICs, but also to research, development, production, and commercialisation of innovative vaccines for the good of public health, supplying solutions to underserved populations where others do not. For example, TB – which is increasingly antibiotic-resistant – is highly prevalent in countries such as China, India, Indonesia, and other, low-income countries.

Innovating with a ‘very strong’ viral vector franchise and its own mRNA platform, Morgon notes that for a company the size of CanSinoBIO, it is ‘quite remarkable’ to have mastery across all of these platforms. 

Crafting new antigens with skilled, agile employees

To ensure full efficacy and functionality, the skillsets of its employees are crucial and their knowledge is ‘absolutely essential’. This, Morgon says, “is not technology per se, but more like a backbone that cuts across all those technologies and formulations.” 

When it comes to combination products and the crafting of new antigens, of new drug substances, Morgon believes his colleagues in R&D and process development to be incredibly agile for a company of CanSinoBIO’s size to create the vaccines it does, and as reliably as it does.

“I think what you find in the portfolio, because the company has been established by people who know what they're doing, who've been in vaccines for very long – we understand where the needs are, whether they're addressed by existing vaccines and where there is room for improvement,” Morgon explains. “CanSinoBIO aims to bring [the global public] better vaccines, to meet needs not very well addressed […] That's the philosophy: bringing something innovative that addresses an unmet need in LMICs.”

Ready to act on an Ebola vaccine

As regards Ebola, CanSinoBIO remains committed to helping craft a new vaccine in case of an epidemic. Ebola typically emerges through ‘epidemic flareups’, disappearing in one place and then resurfacing in a different location. The latest epidemic was in Uganda, and the strain there, Morgon explains, was the so-called Sudan strain, which differs greatly from the previous outbreak, a considerable epidemic in Liberia and Sierra Leone, triggered by the Zaire strain. The Zaire strain vaccines were not deemed useful for handling the situation in Uganda.

However, the Ebola vaccine is not a routine vaccine: “It's not something that you produce to have an inventory ready at hand or where you have routine vaccination,” Morgon explains. “What we have confirmed is essentially that, should another epidemic take place, CanSinoBIO is willing to be a part of the solution to work with the big NGOs that are involved in carrying the efforts towards getting a response in as little time as possible.”

Vaccines for a public health armamentarium, open to partnering

Of course, global consideration requires a broad mindset in order to understand the multiple attitudes to vaccines across the planet.

“[If we talk] about the likes of Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America, from the epidemiological perspective, you're looking at very different worlds,” Morgon explains. “You're looking also at maybe a different focus in terms of vaccines being an important tool in the public health armamentarium. In Latin America, there's a very strong tradition for vaccination […] which is positively perceived by the population, unlike what you're seeing in Europe, for instance, or in the US.” 

In terms of vaccine commercialisation, CanSinoBIO takes a localising approach and is open to partnership in order to effect in-country manufacture.

“We're following the same approach that we are following in Southeast or Central Asia,” he says. “We're looking at potential partners to license our products with, obtain registration, and then commercialise. When those partners have manufacturing capabilities, CanSinoBIO is fully open to doing technology transfers. We are not obsessed by the idea of having our own subsidiaries everywhere.”

Equitable access to vaccines, autonomising LMICs

“It's the famous parable of fishing,” Morgon explains. “If someone is hungry and you give him a fish, you're feeding for one day. If you teach him how to fish, you feed him for life. In a way, when you get to a point of tech transfer, you actually increase the autonomy of the country, and the self-sufficiency at the country level. You facilitate access to the vaccines. You make sure that they're available locally. Otherwise, those countries that do not manufacture vaccines depend on importing everything they consume. We've seen the limitation of this situation during the COVID-19 pandemic, where having a small number of large facilities essentially creates as many bottlenecks.”

Furthermore, it is a question of affordability. And when production is done locally, “you get the economics right”.

“When you look at the reality of LMICs, you have some countries that are still labelled emerging countries that have emerged already from the infrastructure, from the governance perspectives,” Morgon explains. “Although you may have nuances between the rural areas and the urban areas, the point is that I still find it personally extremely rewarding to, hopefully, be making a difference, helping those countries access products or essential tools from the public health perspective.”

“After access to clean water, vaccines are the only human intervention that have such a positive impact on life expectancy,” he continues. “Before clean water, people were dying of typhoid, of cholera, of other things, but, of course, you can have the cleanest possible tap water, but it doesn't do anything against airborne pathogens or vector-borne pathogens.”

The pleasure of making a difference: Facilitating trust

For Morgon, it’s ‘exciting’ to be part of an organisation that has an intent that resonates with his own personal aspirations and values. Having worked at least once in 67 countries, he has first-hand experience in emerging countries. Also on the board of several European companies, including four operating in vaccines and vaccine technology, Morgon is certainly immersed in the topic. For him, it’s about “the pleasure of making a difference”.

Morgon considers the work he does with CanSinoBIO to be a privilege. Before working in industry, he worked for three years in a hospital doing clinical pharmacology. He has clinical experience and never forgets the patients he saw at the beginning of his career:

“When you have an opportunity to work on products that make a real difference and when you participate in vaccination campaigns, and you see what you see in the eyes of the mothers bringing you their babies, that they trust you, that they trust a vaccine, and that they expect you to make a difference, well, you have a sense of both responsibility and achievement when it's done, which is unbeatable. You feel you're making something useful.

“I turned 60 this year. It's very exciting to be here. I know that the biggest portion of my career is behind me now, but I'm still looking forward to the years I still have. I have no intention to retire anytime soon; I'm having fun doing what I'm doing,” he concludes.

About the interviewee

Dr Pierre Armand Morgon

Pierre A. MORGON is CEO of MRGN Advisors, Executive Vice President, Portfolio Strategy and Supranational Affairs at CanSino Biologics and Regional Partner for Switzerland at Merieux Equity Partners. He is Chairman of the Boards of Eurocine Vaccines, MYCB1, Kupando and Health Technologies Holding, as well as Non-Executive Director to the Boards of Vaccitech, Univercells, Amoeba and Limula. 

Pierre has over 35 years of experience in the global life science industry, especially with specialty care, vaccines and immunotherapy, at the helm of international operations, in C-level positions at global level in multinational corporations and as CEO of start-up companies.  He is a lecturer in several MBA programs and in life science conferences, and at the Mass Challenge incubator in Switzerland where he is also a mentor for start-up life sciences companies.

He holds a Doctorate of Pharmacy, a Master in Business Law and a MBA, and he is an alumnus of INSEAD and IMD.

About CanSino Biologics

cansinobioCanSinoBIO is a leading biopharmaceutical company committed to research, production, and commercialisation of innovative vaccines for global public health security. It possesses five key platform technologies including viral vector-based technology, synthetic vaccine technology, protein structure design and recombinant VLP technology, mRNA vaccine technology, as well as formulation and delivery technology. As of today, it has established a rich portfolio of pipeline products preventing more than 10 diseases. Additional information can be found online at