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SE Asia a Step Nearer to Making Homegrown Shots: The Chula-Cov19 mRNA vaccine

Amid a global shortage of vaccines and a new wave of COVID-19 infections, some countries in Southeast Asia are rushing to develop their own coronavirus shots.

After promising results from the phase 1 clinical trial of the experimental vaccine ChulaCov19, researchers at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand began the phase 2a trial on 150 volunteers on Thursday, on track to become Southeast Asia’s first mRNA vaccine.

The vaccine “can induce a very strong antibody response, (which is) as good as Pfizer”, said Kiat Ruxrungtham, director of the Chula-Cov19 mRNA vaccine development program and founder of the Chula Vaccine Research Center, the research team behind ChulaCov-19.

Unlike inactivated vaccines that contain a protein or other small pieces taken from a virus, mRNA vaccines prompt the human body to make a protein that triggers an immune response.

According to the results made public on Aug 16, based on the phase 1 trial on 36 volunteers, ChulaCov19 can 94 percent block viral binding of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to human cells, which is similar to that of Pfizer. It can build immunity against four virus variants namely Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta.

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Chula’s encouragement and support for research is excellent for teachers, students, and the public.

Associate Professor Dr. Suchana Chavanich Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University