Made-in-Vietnam COVID-19 vaccine set for human trials in October

Saturday, 2020-08-15 10:12:36
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A mouse, which is a test subject for a COVID-19 vaccine made by Vietnam, has its blood sample taken in a Vabiotech lab. (Photo: VnExpress)
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NDO/VNA – First phase of human trials on a made-in-Vietnam COVID-19 vaccine could begin as early as this October.

The Institute of Vaccines and Medical Biologicals (IVAC) in Nha Trang city, partnering with New York City-based Icahn School of Medicine and the global health non-profit organisation PATH, expects to conduct testing on small groups of volunteers in October-December this year.

Phase 2, comprising larger groups of people, and Phase 3, comprising up to thousands, will be conducted at the beginning of 2021.

The institute plans to submit documents for approval to the health ministry as early as April next year and claims to be capable of producing 30 million doses a year.

By October 2021, the vaccine could be distributed to the general population.

IVAC is researching an egg-based vaccine, making use of the Newcastle disease virus (NDV) expressing the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2.

According to Duong Huu Thai, head of IVAC, the production of its COVID-19 vaccine will be similar to the production of influenza vaccine.

The live NDV-Lasota-S virus – given to IVAC from its US partner in May – is injected into a membrane of fertilised hen’s egg and cultivated, then the propagated viruses are extracted from the membrane to be inactivated while still maintain their physical properties.

The now inactivate virus, unable to cause disease, will still trigger the body’s immune response that can target the coronavirus.

The vaccine candidate has shown initial positive results in animals, Thai said, but it was too early to claim success.

Another firm, Vaccine and Biological Production No.1 Company (Vabiotech) under the Ministry of Health, partnering with the UK-based University of Bristol since February, said after trials on mice demonstrating strong immune response to coronavirus, especially after the repeat shot, it aims to conduct trials on small groups of people at the beginning of next year.

Vabiotech is developing its vaccine candidate using the protein subunit method, using only part of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to stimulate the immune system to release antibodies.

The company said it is optimising production procedures for large-scale production of the vaccine and could produce up to 100 million doses a year.

Two other companies in Vietnam are researching a vaccine, including the Centre for Immunisation Vaccines POLYVAC partnering with the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, which is still waiting for approval from the Ministry of Science and Technology for its research.

The last is Nanogen Biopharmaceutical company in Ho Chi Minh City, using protein from the SARS-CoV-2 strain found in China’s Wuhan together with the mutated strain D614G, the dominant strain rapidly spreading across the world, including the ongoing outbreak in Vietnam.

The health ministry has asked the two companies to start preparing for large-scale manufacturing in case their vaccines are approved.

Nguyen Thu Van, member of Scientific Council under the Ministry of Health, said a Vietnamese-made COVID-19 vaccine could be obtained by the end of 2021.

“If Vietnam can achieve that goal, that timeframe is already expedited. Usually, it takes at least five to six years to produce a new vaccine,” Van said.

Nguyen Ngo Quang, Vice Director of the Administration of Science, Technology and Training under the Ministry of Health, said in a meeting last month that even with an expedited timeline, "the vaccine’s quality must still be ensured and the product must be able to prevent coronavirus infection based on ethical principles in medical research".