Progress on the development of Indonesia’s COVID-19 candidate vaccine, known as the Merah Putih (Red and White) vaccine has reached 55 percent.
If it goes well, it is estimated that the preclinical trial on animals can be carried out immediately in November 2020, Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology head Amin Soebandrio revealed during the Denpasar 12 Discussion Forum titled "Red and White Vaccines: Challenges and Expectations", which was broadcast virtually on Wednesday.
"Currently, it is about 55 percent through the laboratory stage. It is hoped that preclinical animal testing can be carried out next month, and if everything runs smoothly we can finish development of the vaccine by the year end, and early next year the vaccine concentrate can be submitted to Bio Farma," said Amin as quoted by tribunnews.com.
"Bio Farma will later formulate the candidate vaccine concentrate so that it can be prepared for clinical trials in humans," Amin said.
Amin explained that the Eijkman Molecular Institute also used the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 that spread in Indonesia as the basis for the genetic information of the Merah Putih vaccine.
Eijkman, he claimed, had succeeded in amplifying the gene coding proteins S and N from the Indonesian isolate SARS-CoV-2 virus.
"Eijkman has transferred S and N genes from carrier vectors to vectors in the mammalian cell lines," explained Amin.
Currently, the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology is waiting for these mammalian cells to produce the expected recombinant protein antigen. In this case, antigens are substances that can stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology chose to develop a vaccine with a recombinant protein subunit platform because it is relatively safer as it does not use live viruses as vectors.
Production costs from developing vaccines using recombinant protein subunit platforms are also relatively low, and the technology is already mastered by many developing countries, including Indonesia.
Research and Technology Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro revealed that currently candidate vaccines developed by Britain’s pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca and China’s Sinovac were among the potential vaccines in the world that had entered Phase III clinical trials.
Sinovac is currently cooperating with state pharmaceutical firm Bio Farma in running clinical trials in Indonesia.
Results of clinical trials of the Sinovac candidate vaccine in Indonesia have shown effectiveness reaching 30 to 50 percent.
Bambang, however, said the stage III clinical trial was not the last stage, so there must be surveillance or monitoring on those who receive vaccinations.
Previously, two late-stage COVID-19 vaccine trials were paused in the space of 24 hours over potential safety concerns, Agence France-Presse reported on Wednesday.
US pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly on Tuesday suspended its Phase 3 trial of its lab-produced antibody treatment in hospitalized patients over an unspecified incident.
A day earlier, the American pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson temporarily halted its Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial due to an unexplained illness in a study participant. (iwa)
Editor’s note: This article is part of a public campaign by the COVID-19 task force to raise people’s awareness about the pandemic.