Thailand joins hunt for vaccine
Thailand has set itself the ambitious goal of being among the first countries in the world to have a Covid-19 vaccine next year after recent tests yielded promising results.
"Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered us to rush development so Thai people will have enough vaccines for Covid-19 disease prevention," Suvit Maesincee, minister of Higher Education Science Research and Innovation, said in a press briefing on Tuesday regarding the development of a homegrown vaccine.
Following tests on guinea pigs, key tests with monkeys will begin next week, he said.
Mr Suvit said the research team and Thai government had already contacted pharmaceutical manufacturers in the US and Canada to produce the first batch of vaccines for testing on humans.
He said a vaccine against the coronavirus might be available for Thais next year.
Thailand has several such vaccine projects. The one mentioned by the minister is being jointly developed by experts from Chulalongkorn University's Centre of Excellence in Vaccine Research and Development, the National Vaccine Institute and the Department of Medical Sciences.
The team of researchers are using mRNA technology which is the "newest" method to develop the vaccine, the minister said.
Biologically, mRNA or Messenger RNA carries the blueprint of the cell's original DNA involved in the process of building proteins.
But in the vaccine context, it "prompts body cells to produce so-called antigens, the tell-tale molecules on the surface of viruses, that spur the immune system into action", Reuters reported.
Any vaccine test success in animals is necessary but not sufficient as developers have to think of how to distribute the vaccine to a large number of people.
A Thai biotechnology company has been tasked with ensuring it will have the capability to produce enough vaccines.
Other institutions in the country are also separately developing vaccines, with some currently conducting tests on animals.
Mr Suvit said more than 150 prototype vaccines have been developed worldwide. At least 10 of them have been tested among volunteers in five countries -- China, the US, Britain, Germany and Canada.