6 June 2024

Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University will launch a campaign this Friday to encourage members of the public to donate in support of an ambitious project for the development and production of Thailand’s domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine, to be produced from tobacco leaves.

The Chula university’s rector, Dr. Bundhit Eua-arporn, told a news conference this morning (Tuesday), at Chula QEnterprise, that the vaccine project is a joint effort by Chulalongkorn University, Baiya Phytopharm Company, the Government Pharmaceutical Organization and Kingen Biotech Company.

A memorandum of understanding for the joint research, development and production of the vaccine is to be signed soon.

The campaign intends to raise 500 million baht in seed money, from a million donors, to build a factory to produce the anti-viral vaccine for the Thai people, said Dr. Bundhit, adding that the donors will have privileged access to the vaccine, once the vaccine has been approved for use and distribution, in line with the laws or regulations.

Dr. Sutheera Dejkhunnavuth, of the Faculty of Pharmacy, Chulalongkorn University, and the CEO of Baiya Phytofarm, said that the candidate vaccine, developed from extracts of tobacco leaves, will go through laboratorial tests for the first and second phases in the middle of next year, with the third phase of human trials on volunteers expected at the end of next year, to be conducted at home or abroad, depending on the pandemic situation at the time.

If the human trials are successful, mass production will commence and it is expected that the factory will be able to produce about one million doses of the vaccine annually, she said, adding that each dose will cost about 500 baht, which is half the price of the vaccine produced by Pfizer or Moderna, and each patient will be injected with two doses of 15-20mg each.

Minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Dr. Anek Laothamatas, meanwhile, said he prefers to call this project a vaccine “by Thai people” rather than a vaccine “for Thai people” because it will be an achievement of the Thai people.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said the ministry has set aside 150 million baht to fund this vaccine project, even though it may not be successful “but it is worth the trial as we will gain experience and technology”.  However, he is optimistic the project will be a success.

Besides the vaccine’s development, the minister said the ministry has placed an order to secure 26 million doses of vaccine for 13 million Thais from AstraZeneca, which is developing a vaccine with the UK’s Oxford University.

Members of the public can make donations through all branches of Krung Thai Bank under the “Vaccine for Thai People” project, via the mobile banking application of any banks, by scanning the QR code at www.CUEnterprise.co.th as of this Friday.