BEIJING, April 13 (Reuters) - China's locally developed COVID-19 vaccine candidate that uses messenger RNA (mRNA) technology could start late-stage clinical trial overseas as early as next month, official media said on Tuesday (Apr 13).

ARCoV, the China-developed mRNA vaccine candidate that is furthest along the clinical trial process, may get overseas approval to conduct Phase III clinical trial by as early as end-April, China National Radio said in an article on its website.

China has approved four locally developed coronavirus vaccines for general public use and a fifth for smaller-scale emergency use but none of them uses the mRNA platform. The country has administered more than 170 million vaccinations, the second-highest number of doses in the world after the United States.

The mRNA technology is used by rival shots developed by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, as well as by Moderna. It contains instructions for human cells to produce proteins that mimic part of the coronavirus.

ARCoV is being jointly developed by the Academy of Military Science (AMS), Suzhou Abogen Biosciences and Walvax Biotechnology.

Overseas clinical trials could formally begin in May, and South America could be a "first option" as a trial location, the report said, citing an interview with Ying Bo, founder of Suzhou Abogen Biosciences.

Ying said early-stage trial data has shown that its vaccine is "fully comparable with two overseas mRNA vaccines", without elaborating on the specific readings.

A Phase II clinical trial of ARCoV is under way in China and has completed injecting participants, Qin Chengfeng, an AMS researcher leading the vaccine project, said on Sunday during a presentation at a vaccine event. Results for the trial have not yet been made public.

Another COVID-19 vaccine candidate using mRNA technology being jointly developed by Chinese firm Stemirna Therapeutics and Tibet Rhodiola Pharma has also obtained approval to begin a clinical trial, Rhodiola said in January.