Thai researchers conduct mRNA vaccine prototype testing on crab-eating monkeys

BANGKOK (XINHUA) – A team of Thai COVID-19 vaccine researchers told the media on Wednesday that it has passed its testing of the mRNA vaccine prototype onto guinea pigs and now it is being tested on crab-eating macaques.

If a COVID-19 vaccine can be successfully produced, it will be provided to other ASEAN member countries including Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia as well as Pakistan that is not a member of ASEAN, said Chair of Chulalongkorn University’s Chula Vaccine Research Centre Dr Kiat Ruxrungtham.

Kiat said in a press briefing that he believes human trials will start by early October this year.

“If things go as planned, Thailand will have its own COVID-19 vaccine next year,” he said.

“The mRNA technology uses modified nucleosides by boosting translation and decreasing activation of the innate immune system,” said Kiat, who is leading a 10-member research team.

“The owner of the mRNA technology is Professor Dr Drew Weissman from the University of Pennsylvania. He wanted Thailand and low-income nations to have access to the crucial vaccine.”

As of Wednesday, Thailand has recorded a total of 3,084 COVID-19 cases and 58 fatalities.

Because medical treatment for COVID-19 patients has been very costly, Kiat said it would be best if Thailand could produce its own vaccine.

Kiat’s research team was initially funded by a Chulalongkorn University start-up fund, but now also receives money from the National Vaccine Institute and the National Research Council of Thailand.

The Thai government has earlier pledged BHT5 billion (USD158.2 million) to support Thailand’s effort to quickly develop a vaccine to stem COVID-19.