Vietnam incorporates new technology into coronavirus vaccine research

Thursday, 2020-05-07 15:12:19
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Medical staff test a potential coronavirus vaccine on mice.
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NDO – For the first time ever, Vietnamese scientists are following a new method in line with top global standards in their research into the production of a potential coronavirus vaccine.

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So far, the research team has entered its 11th day testing the vaccine on mice with initially positive results. The mice test cases are healthy and are being monitored and evaluated further in respect of antibodies produced to counter the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to Dr. Do Tuan Dat, President of the Company for Vaccine and Biological Production No.1 (VABIOTECH - under the Ministry of Health) – the unit responsible for developing the vaccine.

Immediately after the COVID-19 genetic sequence was announced, VABIOTECH cooperated with the UK’s University of Bristol to research a potential viral-vector-based vaccine against SARS-CoV-2.

The vector technology, along with DNA and RNA synthesis, is amongst the most modern and versatile technologies used in vaccine production and has a very high efficiency level, while being independent from the culture of the entire pathogen and suitable for pandemic vaccine production.

Dat said that by utilising vector technology, scientists have "installed" the SARS-CoV-2 virus antigen into the potential vaccine and conducted a vaccine test injection on mice to monitor immunogenicity.

“After 10 days of injection, the lab mice are healthy and now undergoing monitoring for any immune response during Phase 1. It could be said that this is an initial success of our study. Although this technology is difficult at the beginning as it requires the creation of an immune response protein, the following steps should be faster than the genetic synthesis technology, which helps shorten the time to develop and produce vaccines," said Dr. Dat.

It is expected that the tested mice can be assessed in separated stages, the first being 14-15 days, followed by a 28-day phase, to determine if an immune response will arise in good time or not.

Researchers are striving to shorten the time to finalise a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

The VABIOTECH director said that Vietnam is a well-known vaccine manufacturer that has produced vaccines since the 1960s, but this is the first time Vietnamese vaccine developers have performed research on vaccine production based on a completely new technology.

Blood samples from lab mice will be transferred to the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology to assess their immune response against SARS-CoV-2. If the immune response is good, then the antigen of the vaccine strain works well. Thereafter, the potential COVID-19 vaccine will continue to be studied for official testing on animals and then finally on humans.

Worldwide, about 100 manufacturers are working together to develop potential COVID-19 vaccines and are currently at the animal testing stage, while eight have conducted clinical trials on humans. Currently, in Vietnam, there are four units also conducting research on coronavirus vaccines, but VABIOTECH is the first having conducted testing on mice and obtained positive initial results.

However, Dr. Dat said that even with its existing experience as one of the country’s leading vaccine producers, it could take VABIOTECH at least 8-9 months to finalise a vaccine candidate for animal testing, one which meets strict standards, thereafter bringing it into the human testing phase.

“Even if there is a good vaccine candidate, turning it into a possibly workable vaccine remains a big question. We are trying our best to accelerate the research and shorten the vaccine production process,” said Dr. Dat.