Malaysian-made vaccine ready for animal trials

Getting protected: A woman getting vaccinated at the World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur PPV.— MUHAMAD SHAHRIL ROSLI/The Star

PETALING JAYA: One of two Covid-19 vaccines being developed in Malaysia is expected to undergo animal trials next month.

“The team developing the vaccine will be conducting pre-clinical trials on laboratory mice, and we expect the trials to be completed within a year,” said Institute for Medical Research (IMR) director Dr Tahir Aris.

The tests involve the proposed inactivated vaccine, which is being developed by the IMR with the Health Ministry, Universiti Putra Malaysia and the Veterinary Research Institute.

“Clinical trials involving humans are expected to be carried out in the second half of next year,” he told Sunday Star.

He said the team is currently waiting for the batch of laboratory mice to arrive before starting the trials.

On July 4 last year, Sunday Star reported that Malaysia was working on two types of Covid-19 vaccines after an exclusive tour of the IMR laboratory in Shah Alam.

The first is an inactivated vaccine similar to the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine, which uses viruses that have been killed by chemicals, heat or radiation to trigger an immune response in humans.

The second is an mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccine, which is solely an IMR initiative for now.

Such mRNA vaccines, like the one developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response inside our bodies.

Dr Tahir said both types of vaccines are being developed by Malaysian researchers according to schedule.

The proposed mRNA vaccine will need to undergo the proof-of-concept phase or a stage to show evidence of its feasibility, he said.

“This phase is expected to be completed by the end of this year before we can proceed to pre-clinical trials in 2023 and clinical trials in 2024.”

Clinical trials for both vaccines will be conducted by the Institute of Clinical Research at the National Institute of Health and Clinical Research Malaysia.

“Both organisations will abide by standard protocols in conducting clinical trials, which involve different phases,” Dr Tahir said.

On whether the vaccine produced by IMR will be used as booster shots, he said this would be determined by policymakers based on scientific data.

“The clinical trials will also show if it is safe for children and whether it can be mixed with other types of vaccines,” he added.

As Covid-19 will be around for some time, vaccination has become necessary, he said.

“There is a need for local capabilities in developing vaccines as vaccination is key to stopping any pandemic.”

IMR is the biomedical research arm of the Health Ministry, with its research leading to innovations and products that help to prevent, detect, diagnose, treat and control diseases.

In 2001, it was elected as a member of the Governing Board of the WHO-UNDP-World Bank Special Programme on Tropical Disease Research.

While it supports the ministry in pandemic investigations, it also focuses on dengue, tuberculosis, malaria, cancer, stem cells, rheumatoid arthritis and environmental health.

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