[UPDATE-1] One more dead from coronavirus in Thailand; Thais aim to be first country to develop covid vaccine

One more person has died from the coronavirus pandemic in Thailand, the government said on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 58 killed by the disease.

There was also one more case discovered in state quarantine bringing the total number of cases discovered inside the country to 3,083 cases, Government Spokesman Dr Thaweesin Visanuyothin said.

One more patient recovered from the virus bringing the total number of cases 2,966 patients discharged.

59 people remain in hospital with the disease.

Human trials could begin in the second half of 2020

Thailand’s development of a coronavirus vaccine is now advancing through the animal testing stage which began with clinical trials on monkeys in May.

If animal testing is successful, human clinical trials could start within the second half of 2020. 

BioNet, a Thai-French privately-held biotech company, is at the helm of developing a vaccine in Thailand. In collaboration with eleven domestic organizations in Thailand, the company started development in February. 

The company’s DNA-based vaccine candidate is currently undergoing pre-clinical testing using various delivery systems, starting with animal testing on rats at the beginning of April.

The clinical trial on monkeys started in May. 

Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said during his visit to BioNet’s plant in Ayutthaya on Monday that the government is willing to fully support the development of the vaccine.

“I want Thailand to be one of the first countries to find a vaccine against COVID-19,” he said. 

The ministry is currently discussing setting up a budget for the development of the vaccine, according to Anutin.

Many other governments have made similar moves, such as the US whose private sector are also being funded to develop a vaccine. Their tests on animals started in three months and human trials will start within six months.

Anutin said the results from the clinical trial on rats are looking good. It is at this stage being examined by the Department of Medical Sciences (DMS). 

BioNet’s chief executive officer, Pham Hong Thai, told Reuters on Monday that the company’s tests on animals had shown “encouraging results” and the next step is to wait for government approval for human clinical trials.

Anutin added on Monday that if the DMS deemed the results for the clinical trials on animals as effective, Phase 1 of the human clinical trials could start in the second half of 2020. 

If everything is on target, Phase 3 could begin 12 months after Phase 1 which would be approximately around the end of 2021. 

If Phase 3 of the human trial is successful, Thailand will be one of the first countries in the world to have developed the vaccine, he added. 

Thailand is now among 100 countries currently developing a vaccine.

China National Biotec Group (CNBG) said on Monday that they are finishing up on clinical trials and will be preparing to sell the vaccine by the end of 2020 or early in 2021.

CNBG is a subsidiary of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm). It said on Monday that more than 2,000 people have received the vaccine and results have been effective with lowered adverse reactions.

If developed, the company will be able to produce around 100 to 120 million vaccines per year.

There are now five Chinese-developed vaccines being tested on humans, more than any other country in the world. However, Bloomberg reported that there have been many production quality issues and safety scandals related to the development of vaccines in China in the past.

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