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Thai-made subunit Covid-19 vaccine gets ok for human trials

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Human trials will begin next month for a Thai subunit vaccine. (via Thai PBS World)

Approval was received to begin testing on human subjects in September for a Covid-19 subunit vaccine created in Thailand by the Vaccine Research Centre of Chulalongkorn University and Baiya Phytopharm Company. The vaccine is the second to be racing to clear testing phases and be used to fight Covid-19 in Thailand. The other, an mRNA vaccine, is being developed by Chulalongkorn University with the assistance of Moderna’s Asian distributor Zuellig Pharma.

While the ChulaCov19 vaccine is an mRNA dose that uses genetically engineered messenger RNA to teach the human body to fight the vaccine, this new vaccine is a protein subunit vaccine, where a harmless portion of the virus is used. S proteins are recognized by the human body and antibodies are developed to fight them, so the body can fight off any future Covid-19 infections.

The subunit vaccine will conduct testing on 100 volunteers who will receive 3 different strengths, 10, 50 and 100 micrograms, to figure out what the most appropriate dosage would be. Tests on mice and monkeys have produced sufficient boosts to the body’s immune response to Covid-19 and has won the financial support of the Ministry of Public Health according to Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul.

The vaccine is being developed from an unusual source: tobacco. The S proteins in the subunit vaccine are transplanted onto tobacco leaves to cultivate and then is extracted to produce vaccines. The National Vaccine Institute provided 160 million baht to build a prototype factory which has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and will be able to produce up to 5 million vaccines each month.

Developers hope to begin mass production of the new vaccines by July of next year. One benefit of the protein subunit vaccine is that the production can be adapted in order to fight all the different variants currently in circulation as well as future strains that have yet to mutate and emerge.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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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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