11 July 2024

The first phase of human trials of a COVID-19 protein subunit vaccine, jointly developed by the Vaccine Research Centre of Chulalongkorn University and Baiya Phytopharm Company, will be launched in September, said Thailand’s Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul today (Friday).

About 100 volunteers will be used in the trial and they will be given three different dosages, of 10, 50 and 100 micrograms, of the candidate vaccine, to determine which is most suitable, he said, adding that, if everything proceeds according to plan, mass production could start in the third quarter of next year.

Minister Anutin, accompanied by Medical Sciences Department Director-General Dr. Supakit Sirilak, Food and Drug Administration Secretary-General Dr. Paisal Dunkhum and Dr. Nakorn Premsri, director of the National Vaccine Institute, inspected the prototype factory, which produces the vaccine from tobacco leaves.

The factory was built with about 160 million baht, provided by the National Vaccine Institute, on the 11th floor of the Chulapat 14 building and has been approved by the Thai FDA. The factory will have the capacity to produce up to 5 million doses a month.

Mr. Anutin said that trials of the candidate vaccine on mice and monkeys show that it boosts immune response satisfactorily, adding that the Ministry of Public Health is to support this vaccine project with additional funding.

He also said that the protein subunit vaccine can be adapted to deal with different viral variants, similar to the anti-flu vaccine.

The subunit vaccine presents one or more antigens to the immune system, without introducing pathogen particles, whole or otherwise. Like the inactivated virus vaccines, such as the Chinese Sinovac and Sinopharm, the vaccine is dead.

In the case of the Thai protein subunit vaccine, a bacterium carrier with antigen inserted is transplanted into tobacco leaves, which can later be extracted for its protein for vaccine production.