Thailand Progressing its Own mRNA-based COVID-19 Vaccine Nearing Human Clinical Trials Stage

Thailand Progressing its Own mRNA-based COVID-19 Vaccine Nearing Human Clinical Trials Stage

Learning a painful lesson from the H1N1 pandemic, Thailand declared it will produce its own COVID-19 vaccine instead of queuing up to export from either China, the United States or Europe. One of the leading scientists involved with the effort reports that clinical trials could commence by early October. The nation won’t make the same mistake when they signed a deal to procure an H1N1 vaccine but never received the goods until the contagion passed. With preclinical primate research producing positive results, Chulalongkorn University’s Centre of Excellence for Vaccine Research and Development leads the effort.

Now Kiat Ruxrungtham, lead researcher at Chulalongkorn University Centre of Excellence for Vaccine Research and Development declared recently, “The pandemic is teaching the whole world to do something different.” Presently, over 120 COVID-19 vaccines have surfaced and 13 have made it to the clinical evaluation state, reports the World Health Organization (WHO).

Vaccine Nationalism or Pragmatism

A number of articles have surfaced recently evidencing the author’s concerns of vaccine nationalism, such as the recent Harvard Business Review position. But viewed from a different lens, say from Thailand, health leaders and researchers don’t want to be dependent on high-income economies with the associated risks of import dependence. With complete economic turmoil, COVID-19 has shaken up the world rendering the U.S., for example, near chaos as it has emerged as the epicenter. Thailand seeks to attempt to take more control of its health, economic and social care future. Hence, they align with Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, WHO and the non-profit organization GAVI, all happened to seek equitable distribution, reports the South China Morning Post.

The Investigational Vaccine Product

The Thailand-based research endeavor based out of the Chulalongkorn University Centre of Excellence for Vaccine Research and Development has embraced novel mRNA vaccine technology similar to the underlying technology driving Moderna, CureVac and BioNTech’s investigational COVID-19 vaccines. The Thai researchers hence align with Americans and Germans that this mRNA-based method is not only cost-effective but also optimized for large-scale production. In the past, Thai researchers have centered their attention on subunit, inactivated or DNA vaccines.

Preclinical Research

Thus far, Kiat reports positive results as studies on monkeys reveal 100% positive results: all of the primates generated antibodies, and the majority have developed neutralizing antibodies, meaning the investigational Thai vaccine can block the novel coronavirus from penetrating or damaging cells.

Over the past week, the team injected the primates with a second dose of the experimental vaccine. The lead researcher is confident that the results will lead to a national approval for to proceed to human trials. Kiat proudly declared that if this vaccine in fact is approved for in-human studies, it will be the first such COVID-19 investigational vaccine developed outside high-income nations.

Production of the mRNA—Experimental Vaccine

Assuming these preclinical research go well, the Thai team plans within a couple weeks to commence production of 10,000 vaccine doses in both San Diego and Vancouver. Upon completion, they will be immediately shipped to Thailand for clinical trials.

Diverse Pipeline & Gear Up Clinical Trials

The Thai researchers actually are conducting several studies at once using a variety of methods Kiat reported in an interview. If one of their products can proceed through all three phases of the clinical trials process the plan is to shift production from San Diego and Vancouver to Thailand. The Thai health authorities seek to supply neighboring countries as well in a quest to help low-or middle-income economies. Kiat reports Accessibility is key!

Chulalongkorn University

Chulalongkorn University ranks in the top 100 worldwide for research universities based on QS World University Rankings 2021. A public and autonomous research university in Bangkok, the university was originally founded during King Chulalongkorn’s reign as a school for training royal pages and civil servants in 1899 at the Grand Palace of Thailand.

Lead Research/Investigator

Kiat Ruxrungtham, MD