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Two months ahead of schedule
One day amid June, Master Mac Van Trong at the Vabiotech received a message from Dr. Do Tuan Dat, the President of Vabiotech informed that the COVID-19 vaccine research project implemented by Trong and his co-workers "has worked.", adding that the candidate vaccine has comparatively high immunogenicity.
For Trong and his team, “This result has the vital significance, demonstrating that the project of searching and producing COVID-19 vaccine which they are pursuing is on the right track and achieves the initial outcome”, said a Vabiotech researcher.
|Master Mac Van Trong strongly believes that Vietnam is able to produce a quality vaccine against the coronavirus sought after by many countries ửoldwide. Photo: Vietnamnet|
Previously, on May 15 and 29, two batches of serum samples of 50 mice injected with the candidate VOVID-19 vaccine were sent to the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE) for evaluation. By comparative injection with the inactivated wild type of virus in mice, the NIHE identified that the serum samples generated antibody responses, some of which were relatively high.
“This is the basis to develop into a complete vaccine," Assoc. Prof., Dr. Nguyen Le Khanh Hang, Deputy Head of the NIHE’s Virology Department said.
With this result, Vabiotech has run ahead of the progress by two months in the first phase of the project, which is also the most important stage in the research and production of the COVID-19 vaccine. In the next stage, the candidate vaccine will be developed into a complete vaccine, which is stable and eligible for human use. The research team will also launch a commercial production process so that it can meet the producing scale of millions or even tens of millions of doses, reported Nhan Dan.
Though not hastening with the news that many countries in the world have started to test their COVID-19 vaccines on humans, Vietnamese scientists are really racing against time, especially in the context that the world would face the risk of the second wave of coronavirus. According to researchers, Vietnam has not set a goal of taking the lead in the race but will develop the vaccine by inheriting the world’s experience in coping with the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus.
|Vabiotech scientists take the sample from a mouse to test antibiotics after injection Photo: Nhan Dan|
“It will take 9-12 months to produce a complete vaccine, but we are making effort to shorten this," Trong revealed. "However, compared to the 10-year average in normal vaccine production, the 18-24 months to develop a COVID-19 vaccine can be considered as a remarkable achievement."
According to Vabiotech's representative, the project not only creates the vaccine that the world is expecting but it also enhances the initiative of Vietnam’s vaccine, particularly pandemic vaccines. If there is a new strain of coronavirus in humans in the future, with the technology available at hand, researchers just need to "assemble" the genes of the novel virus strain to make a new vaccine.
“When one country possesses the commercial vaccine, it will take priority for their citizen to use. For example, in the A/H1N influenza pandemic, it was difficult to buy a single dose of vaccine, not to mention buying millions of doses. Therefore, the initiative of creating vaccines is extremely important,” explained Master Mac Van Trong.
Two studies on SARS-CoV-2 sponsored by VinIF obtain positive outcomes
As informed by Nhan Dan, after ten years of joining in and leading big projects on the research and production of vaccines, with Master Trong, this project is the most special. This is not because of the situation that the world is being attacked by “century virus”, but endless hardness which his research team has experienced.
The project began rather smoothly thanks to the "urgent" fund from the VinIF in response to the global pandemic. Many research phases of the project were carried out at the lab at the University of Bristol from the beginning of February in order to accelerate the progress.
Nevertheless, the project was nearly halted as Europe was in the lockdown, leading to all research activities had to stop. Since forestalling this risk, the team worked almost 24 hours, only sleep several hours a day so as to complete the schedule. Fortunately, as soon as team members left, the UK imposed the lockdown and arrived in Vietnam just before all air flights suspended at the end of March.
“We have been under great pressure. The biggest worry is that the samples cannot be transferred to Vietnam, because if so, the research results in nearly two months would go down the drain,” Trong told about the most difficult time for his team.
Taking a blood sample from a lab mouse Photo: Nhan Dan
To make up for the interruption of 14-day quarantine after returning to Vietnam, the team worked with the intensity of 1-day equal to two days. Vabiotech's laboratory became the "isolation room for research" of scientists returning from the UK. Thanks to that, only one month later, the COVID-19 candidate vaccine was completed for a test injection on mice, added Nhan Dan.
The technology Vabiotech applied in the production of the vaccine against COVID-19 is viral vector technology, instead of traditional inactivated or live-attenuated vaccine technologies. This is a new, versatile technology, with high production efficiency, independence from the culture of the entire pathogen, and appropriate for pandemic vaccines.
“Thanks to the fund, our company has upgraded the Bioreactor cell culture system, which was set up 10 years ago. This new generation model is more adaptable compared to the virus vector technology that we are utilizing,” unveiled Dr. Do Tuan Dat, the President of Vabiotech.
According to the authors of numerous researches concerning the development of "Made-in-Vietnam" vaccines, Vabiotech's project could speed up due to the consequences of studies on the epidemiological characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 which is being implemented by the NIHE. This is also an urgent project sponsored by VinIF right after the outbreak of COVID-19. Thanks to this "decoding" information, Vietnam can still successfully curb COVID-19 though many countries in the world have been "offside" in preparing for the most dangerous epidemic in the early 21st century.
“Vietnam is regarded as a bright star in the COVID-19 fight. We expect more successes, including the Made-in-Vietnam COVID-19 vaccine" said Dr. Dat.
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