R&D on local vaccine production still in proof of concept stage

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THE studies of vaccine development are still in the early stage or n the proof of concept stage, said Science, Technology and Innovation Deputy Minister Datuk Ahmad Amzad Hashim.

He said for the research on the vaccine messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) type, it only involves researchers at the Institute of Medical Research (IMR) and the Ministry of Health (MoH).

While the research collaboration between IMR, Veterinary Research Institute and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) sees a study implemented related to the development of vaccines covering inactivated virus technology.

“Currently, both studies of the vaccine are still in progress at the early stage of development ie the (proof of concept),” Ahmad Amzad told Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

“As for mRNA vaccine, we are currently at the stage where the vaccine candidates will undergo an ‘in-vitro transcription’ process that involves various complex laboratory tests,” he added.

On the ongoing inactivated vaccine research, he said the process of inactivating selected viruses would be done and special substances such as adjuvants would be added to enhance the immune response.

On the RM5 million allocation to University of Malaya (UM) and UPM for the development of vaccine research and development (R&D), he said the projects are currently in the first stage of its implementation process.

The project under UPM using a virus platform is called Construction of Recombinant Newcastle Disease Virus Expressing Receptor Binding Domain (RBD) Protein of Sars-Cov-2 Virus as a Vaccine Candidate.

While the project under UM uses a platform mucosal vaccine named Pilot Project: Development of Modular Mucosal Vaccine Platform Using Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) Bacteria Against Covid-19.

Ahmad Amzad said both projects involve a total allocation of RM4.9 million from the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry’s (Mosti) Combating Covid-19 Fund (MCCOF) grant.

“Since the two projects mentioned earlier kicked off on Jan 15, this year, which is less than a year now, we are still in the ‘milestone 1’ implementation process which involves research and findings, whereby we have implemented the identification of vaccine targets using assistance computers,” he added.

Currently, the project is in the implementation of the next phase of its activity, which is the molecular validation of regrouping and preparation of vaccine target molecules.

Accordingly, Mosti hopes the projects funded below this MCCOF initiative become platforms for creating local vaccines, which in turn can reduce the dependency on vaccine supply from abroad.