Chulalongkorn University’s Vaccine Research Center (Chula VRC) along with University of Pennsylvania are developing a vaccine for Covid-19. The vaccine has worked well on mice and primates. It will be ready for testing on humans this October.
The Covid-19 treatment and screening operation at Phayao University Hospital and Medical Centre (File photo).
On 12 July, Prof Suttipong Wacharasindhu from Chulalongkorn Hospital and Prof Kiat Ruxrungtham from Chula VRC held a press conference at Chulalongkorn Hospital to update the public on the development of an mRNA vaccine for Covid-19 called CU-Cov19.
Prof Suttipong said CU-Cov19 was developed from some parts of the genetic material of Covid-19. He said when this genetic material is injected into bodies, they would transform into proteins, which will boost the creation of antibodies that can fight the virus.
In April and May, the vaccine was tested in mice. They said they had positive results.
Between May and July, the vaccine was tested with primates from the National Primate Research Centre of Thailand. Prof Kiat said the results in primates after injecting a second dose of the vaccine were impressive. Two weeks after the injections, Prof Kiat said the levels of immunity of all primates that were tested increased. Primates that received higher doses had higher levels of immunity, which he said was unexpected. Prof Kiat also said that all the primates are healthy with no side effects.
In two weeks, Prof Kiat said the team will send two types of vaccine with slightly different genetic material to two factories in foreign countries. The first factory is expected to produce the first vaccine samples by the beginning of October, while the second factory will continue producing the lipid of the vaccine in November.
Prof Kiat said they planned for three phases of vaccine testing on humans starting before the end of 2020.
During the first phase, a total of 75 volunteers aged between 18-60 will be tested in 3 groups. The first group of 45 will be injected with doses of 10, 30 or 100 micrograms. 15 people will be tested with 10 micrograms, and if at least six of them show positive results, another 15 volunteers will be injected with 30 micrograms, and if that also goes well, another 15 will be injected with 100 micrograms.
The second group will be given an injection of 30 micrograms followed by one of 10 micrograms. The third group will first be given 100 micrograms and 10 micrograms in the second injection.
If the testing with people aged between 18-60 goes well, another 75 volunteers aged between 61-80 will be tested.
The first phase is expected to take two months, October to December. If the results of the first phase are positive, another 500-1,000 volunteers will participate in the second phase. By mid-2021, they expect to know the results of the vaccine.
If the second phase of the experiment goes well, the third phase will test the vaccine with actual Covid-19 patients in other countries because Thailand has had no new domestic transmission for many weeks now. This will have to be discussed with other countries but they have not thought that far ahead.
Opportunities for volunteers will be announced between August and September after approval from the Food and Drug Administration and the National Ethics Committee Accreditation System of Thailand.
Besides Chula VRC, there are 18 other mRNA vaccine developers and four of them are 6 months ahead of the CU team. If one of the four vaccines is successful and receives approval by the American and European food and drug authorities by the beginning of 2021, the Chula VRC could move to the third phase of testing which could cut 9-12 months from the development process.