Singapore scientists to start human trials of COVID-19 vaccine in August

UNTV News   •   June 16, 2020   •   574

Singapore scientists testing a COVID-19 vaccine from U.S. firm Arcturus Therapeutics plan to start human trials in August after promising initial responses in mice.

The vaccine being evaluated by Singapore’s Duke-NUS Medical School works on the relatively-untested Messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which instructs human cells to make specific coronavirus proteins that produce an immune response.

“The most optimistic case is that it’s about this time next year, that we will have a vaccine,” Ooi Eng Eong, deputy director of the school’s emerging infectious diseases programme, told Reuters on Tuesday (June 16).

The mRNA approach has not yet been approved for any medicine so its backers, which also include U.S. biotech firm Moderna, are treading uncharted territory.

More than 100 vaccines are being developed globally, including several already in human trials, to try and control a disease that has infected more than 8 million people and killed over 430,000 worldwide.

Ooi is also working on a monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 with Singapore-based biotechnology firm Tychan, and will begin safety trials on healthy people this week, before testing on COVID-19 patients in the coming months. Ooi said potential deployment of the treatment could be faster than the vaccine, without giving an exact timeline.

Antibodies are generated in the body to fight off infection. Monoclonal antibodies mimic natural antibodies and can be isolated and manufactured in large quantities to treat diseases.

Tiny city-state Singapore has one of the highest infection tallies in Asia, with more than 40,000 cases, largely due to mass outbreaks in dormitories for its migrant workers. (Reuters)

(Production: Joseph Campbell)

There is hope COVID-19 vaccine may be ready by end of 2020, WHO says

Robie de Guzman   •   October 7, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed hope that a vaccine against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) may be ready by year-end.

“We will need vaccines and there is hope that by the end of this year we may have a vaccine. There is hope,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in his address at the end of a two-day meeting of the agency’s Executive Board on the pandemic.

Tedros did not offer any additional details.

He, however, called for solidarity and political commitment from world leaders to ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine when it becomes available.

“We need each other, we need solidarity and we need to use all the energy we have to fight the virus,” he said.

Nine experimental vaccines in various stages of trials are in the pipeline of the WHO-led COVAX global vaccine facility that aims to distribute two billion doses by the end of 2021.

A total of 172 countries have joined WHO’s COVAX initiative, excluding the United States, China, and Russia. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Mirasol Abogadil)

COVID-19 vaccine approval in PH possible in April 2021 – FDA

Robie de Guzman   •   September 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday said the approval of a vaccine against novel coronavirus disease may be possible in April 2021.

During a virtual press briefing, FDA Director General Eric Domingo said this is “the best case scenario” if clinical trials are completed on schedule.

“If clinical trials are completed by December or January, and a company would file an application with FDA, it’s possible that by April 2021 we will have an approved vaccine,” he said.

“Talagang best case scenario yun, meaning yung three to six months, magiging three months; assuming that they will complete all their analysis and submitted immediately to FDA,” he added.

In the same briefing, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said the time period of three to six months is the experts’ estimate on the completion of Phase III clinical trials for vaccine candidates.

“When they say 3-6 months, we prefer to use the longer forecast in our estimates. That would indicate in that period they would have finished clinical trials and probably already submitted to FDA their application and results of their trials,” he said.

Dela Peña said the World Health Organization (WHO) is set to release its list of selected vaccines and protocols in October and that the fastest that they can start the clinical trials will be in the last quarter of 2020.

“The vaccine trials according to experts will range from 3 to 6 months. I think the very early forecast that we have of second quarter 2021 is still the best forecast we can give,” he said.

The DOST said the Philippines is currently negotiating with 17 vaccine developers from other countries and six of them have already signed confidentiality disclosure agreements that would allow the sharing of their earlier trial results.

Among the six vaccine developers are Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute and China’s Sinovac.

The FDA earlier promised it would expedite the approval procedures but assured that no steps will be skipped to ensure public’s health and safety. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

DOST names 13 hospitals involved in WHO COVID-19 vaccine solidarity trials

Robie de Guzman   •   September 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) on Tuesday announced that 13 hospitals will be involved in the solidarity trials of the World Health Organization (WHO) for potential novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines in the country.

In a statement, DOST Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-MEID) has adopted the agency’s recommendation for zoning on the solidarity trials for the vaccine candidates against COVID-19 which will be conducted this year.

Dela Peña said the vaccine candidates will be tested in eight trial zones, involving a total of 13 hospitals.

He identified these facilities as the Philippine General Hospital, Manila Doctors Hospital, San Lazaro Hospital, Lung Center of the Philippines, St. Luke’s Medical Center-Quezon City, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Makati Medical Center, The Medical City, and St. Luke’s Medical Center-BGC, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, Chong Hua Hospital in Cebu City, De La Salle Health Sciences Institute in Cavite, and Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City.

The WHO solidarity trials will start this October and expected to be completed by the second quarter of the following year.

The DOST chief also confirmed that the Philippines is in agreement with five COVID- 19 vaccine developers that will enable clinical trial data sharing.

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