BANGKOK, June 3 (Xinhua) -- A team of Thai COVID-19 vaccine researchers told the media on Wednesday that it has passed its testing of the mRNA vaccine prototype onto guinea pigs and now it is being tested on crab-eating macaques.
If a COVID-19 vaccine can be successfully produced, it will be provided to other ASEAN members including Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia as well as Pakistan that is not a member of ASEAN, said Dr. Kiat Ruxrungtham, chair of Chulalongkorn University's Chula Vaccine Research Centre.
Kiat said in a press briefing that he believes human trials will start by early October this year.
"If things go as planned, Thailand will have its own COVID-9 vaccine next year," he said.
"The mRNA technology uses modified nucleosides by boosting translation and decreasing activation of the innate immune system," said Kiat, who is leading a 10-member research team. "The owner of the mRNA technology is Professor Dr. Drew Weissman from the University of Pennsylvania. He wanted Thailand and low-income nations to have access to the crucial vaccine."
As of Wednesday, Thailand has recorded a total of 3,084 COVID-19 cases and 58 fatalities.
Because medical treatment for COVID-19 patients has been very costly, Kiat said it would be best if Thailand could produce its own vaccine.
Kiat's research team was initially funded by a Chulalongkorn University start-up fund, but now also receives money from the National Vaccine Institute and the National Research Council of Thailand.
The Thai government has earlier pledged 5 billion baht (158.2 million U.S. dollars) to support Thailand's effort to quickly develop a vaccine to stem COVID-19.
Kiat said his team is using the mRNA technology because it can produce more doses than the DNA type, and at a cheaper cost.
"For instance, if each dose of a DNA vaccine needs 2 milligrams of the substance, an mRNA dose will only require 0.1 mg," he said.
Kiat said that if his team's prototype is successful in human trials, each dose will only cost about 600 baht (19 U.S. dollars).
Kiat also said he has planned several phases of human trials, with the first covering 100 Bangkok residents, the second covering 500 to 1,000 people at medical schools both in Bangkok and the provinces. The third will see the vaccine injected into some 5,000 test subjects.
He said a factory in the United States has been contracted to produce 10,000 doses of the mRNA vaccine once it has been developed by the Chula Vaccine Research Centre.
As part of the contract, the factory will transfer its technology to Thailand-based pharmaceutical company Bionet Asia, so that Thailand can set up its own vaccine production. Enditem