KUALA LUMPUR, August 5 — Malaysia’s Institute of Medical Research (IMR) is leading research on developing an inactivated vaccine against the coronavirus to be tested on animals.
Health Minister Dr Adham Baba said one of the requirements for the initiative by IMR — together with Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and the Malaysian Institute of Pharmaceuticals and Nutraceuticals (Ipharm) — is a SARS-CoV-2 virus successfully reactivated by IMR.
Live attenuated vaccines use a weakened form of the microorganism that causes the disease and gives a long-lasting immune response, whereas inactivated vaccines use the killed version of the microorganisms that cause the disease, thus requiring booster shots to maintain immunity.
Dr Adham stated that the next step after IMR successfully reactivates the coronavirus in its research is to identify a suitable strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the Covid-19 disease, for developing the vaccine.
He added that IMR would also seek to optimise the method of inactivating the virus by using the Avian Coronavirus infection Bronchitis Virus (IBV). Then IMR will identify suitable facilities for animal testing.
“The Institute of Medical Research hopes that this research will be the stepping stone of the development of a Covid-19 vaccine in Malaysia,” Dr Adham said in a written Parliament reply to Beaufort MP Azizah Mohd Dun yesterday.
National Geographic reported recently that over 150 Covid-19 vaccines are in development globally. Some vaccines use the whole coronavirus in a killed or weakened state, while others use a protein or fragment of the virus. Some also transfer the coronavirus proteins into a different virus that is unlikely or unable to cause disease. Other Covid-19 vaccines in the pipeline use pieces of the coronavirus’s genetic material so that human cells can temporarily make coronavirus proteins to stimulate the immune system.
STAT reported yesterday that American biotechnology company Novavax showed a promising immune response in a small and early trial of its potential Covid-19 vaccine, with a high rate of mostly mild side effects like pain and tenderness at the site of injection, but the study wasn’t meant to show efficacy, according to an expert.
Another US biotechnology company, Moderna Therapeutics, announced on July 27 that it has started Phase Three of its clinical trial for a potential vaccine against Covid-19 involving 30,000 individuals. Preliminary results from Phase One showed healthy subjects have produced antibodies against the coronavirus.
The coronavirus vaccine that is currently being developed by Moderna, and a partnership between Pfizer and BioNTech, uses the virus’s genetic material — messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) — to produce proteins mimicking the coronavirus so that the immune system can recognise the protein and attack the virus.