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Chulalongkorn University progressing on domestic mRNA vaccine

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Chulalongkorn University and Zuellig Pharma are testing a Covid-19 mRNA vaccine. (via Chulalongkorn University)

With Covid-19 battering Thailand and the third wave bringing the Sinovac-resistant Delta variant to the forefront of the pandemic, Thailand’s slow vaccine rollout is further burdened by the ineffectiveness of the Chinese made traditional vaccine that a majority of inoculations are using. AstraZeneca provides more protection, and talk of booster shots have come after mixing vaccine doses has begun. But mRNA vaccines have been shown to be far more effective against mutations and strains, although Thailand has struggled to import them. Chulalongkorn University has been chugging along on the development of their own mRNA vaccine that could be produced locally, with the assistance of Moderna’s Asian distributor Zuellig Pharma.

A press release today by Zuellig Pharma updated the progress of the domestic mRNA vaccine the university has been working on, named ChulaCov19. On June 14, clinical trials began with 36 test subjects in the first phase. This step of the process was to evaluate the mRNA vaccine’s safety and to determine dosage, and were conducted on subjects who were strictly screened to be in perfect health.

The next stage of clinical trials are expected to begin next month. The director of Chulalongkorn University stated they hoped the vaccine would be ready to be part of the 2022 vaccination rollout if the trials show that the vaccine is safe and effective in fighting the various Covid-19 strains.

Chulalongkorn University has partnered with Zuellig Pharma because of the complex and difficult logistics of storing and distributing mRNA vaccines, even during trials. For many of the same reasons Moderna partnered with Zuellig, the university needs their help for cold storage, as the ChulaCov19 vaccine must be stored at sub-zero temperatures with some procedures reaching temperatures as low as -70 degrees.

Not only do vaccines need to be stored very cold, but they need transportation that keeps them very cold right up until delivery. Zuellig Pharma has the largest cold chain warehouse and delivery operation in Thailand, which has allowed Chulalongkorn University to safely handly vaccines through the first stages of clinical trials and in continuing future phases before the mRNA vaccine’s hopeful approval for distribution domestically in Thailand.

SOURCE: Chulalongkorn University

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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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