Duopharma, Pharmaniaga among frontrunners for Covid-19 fill-and-finish task

The tender is not limited to just the 2 companies but the final decision will depend on NPRA’s standards and requirements, says minister

pic by BERNAMA

DUOPHARMA Biotech Bhd and Pharmaniaga Bhd are in the lead to do fill-and-finish work for Covid-19 vaccines in Malaysia, as they meet health standards and have the required capacity for the task.

However, there are other candidates in the running and a decision to award the fill-and-finish contract will undergo due process, said Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar (picture) at the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

“The tender is not limited to just the two companies. They are among those with proven capacity to do the job.

“However, the final decision will depend on standards and requirements set out by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Authority (NPRA) under the Health Ministry (MoH),” he said.

Khairy Jamaluddin was responding to Datuk Mohd Nizar Zakaria (Perikatan Nasional-Parit) who had asked the minister to confirm the appointments, state the criteria for their selection and clarify as to whether the decision was made via direct award. Malaysia is currently engaged with a host of nations, including China, in pursuit of a vaccine for the Covid-19 disease.

The country’s inability to produce human vaccines means it must rely on others to find the cure. Khairy Jamaluddin is scheduled to have a video conference with his Chinese counterpart Wang Zhigang today, where he will discuss the possibility of gaining access to vaccines from China for local use once it is found.

“Of course, this will depend if MoH finds it suitable, safe and effective to use,” he said.

China is widely considered to be leading the vaccine hunt, with several Chinese firms reporting that their experimental vaccines were in the final stage of tests.

Khairy Jamaluddin said Malaysia had offered to participate in China’s human trials, but had to forfeit due to the declining number of local cases.

“They need a lot of active cases to conduct the clinical trials, which is why they are doing their tests in the United Arab Emirates and Brazil.

“Many of our companies had to pull out because we were able to contain the spread of the virus here,” he said.

The government is also working on a national policy roadmap to develop a vaccine ecosystem, Khairy Jamaluddin added.

This will help Malaysia build its capacity in producing human vaccines in the medium term and ensure that the country has vaccine security and self-reliance without having to fully rely on imports.

In response to a supplementary question by Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail (Pakatan Harapan-Kulim Bandar Baru), who inquired about past attempts to produce vaccines locally, Khairy Jamaluddin said the government has funded 55 projects involving the development of vaccines since 2006.

Out of five ongoing projects on human vaccines, only one for cholera has reached the preclinical stage. At the same time, Malaysia has developed 19 vaccines for animals.

“For now, we are more successful in commercialising animal vaccines than human vaccines. We have identified several weaknesses in the current model, including the formation of Ninebio Sdn Bhd, which has proven to be a failure.

“The new roadmap will offer a different approach that is more focused on only a few selected viruses. Right now, there are too many studies going on because we are trying to look at everything,” he said.