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Covid-19 Vaccine Human Trials Might Begin In Singapore Sometime This Week

Covid-19 Vaccine Human Trials Might Begin In Singapore Sometime This Week

This vaccine was developed by Duke-NUS Medical School and United States pharmaceutical company Arcturus Therapeutics.

Tasneem Nazari

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Singapore may see human trials for a Covid-19 vaccine taking place there as early as sometime this week. 

Developed by Duke-NUS Medical School and United States pharmaceutical company Arcturus Therapeutics, the Lunar-Cov19 vaccine’s human trials in Singapore will involve 108 healthy volunteers of various ages.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, deputy director of Duke-NUS Medical School’s emerging infectious diseases programme Professor Ooi Eng Eong said the aim of the study is to determine if Lunar-Cov19 was safe and if it could trigger the desired immune response in a human body.

The testing will be conducted at the SingHealth Investigational Medicine Unit, located in the Singapore General Hospital and involve taking and analysing several blood samples from participants after they were given the vaccine.

Prof Ooi said preliminary testing on animal models have already shown that Lunar-Cov19 was safe and free of any side effects. This led to the vaccine receiving approval for human clinical trials in Singapore ahead of its expected September timeline.

When news got out that we were doing a vaccine, we were thrilled that many members of the public said they wanted to volunteer for it. And I think that’s encouraging because the faster the volunteers come forward, the faster we can complete the trial.

Professor Ooi Eng Eong via The Star

He also shared that many members of the public have also come forward to volunteer as a participant for the study, adding that if the vaccine’s human trials go well, results could be available sometime in October or November 2020. 

Then, the next step would be to inoculate a larger sample size, some thousands of volunteers in both Singapore and abroad. This could begin before the end of the year.

Prof Ooi Eng Eong. (Credit: Channel News Asia)

In Phase III, we want to know whether the vaccine actually prevents them from getting Covid-19.

Professor Ooi Eng Eong via The Star

He explained how Lunar-Cov19 involves a newer type of vaccine technology, similar to the one used by Moderna in their development of a Covid-19 vaccine. Both contain only fragments of the virus’s genetic material, and enable the human body to recogonise a key part of the virus, without exposing it to the entire virus.

However, there’s a key difference between Lunar-Cov19 and Moderna’s vaccine – Moderna’s is a non-replicating vaccine, while Lunar-Cov19 isn’t.

Prof Ooi explains that a non-replicating vaccine gives the body a snapshot of what an invasion by the virus would look like. While Lunar-Cov19 stimulates an actual viral infection.

By mimicking the replication, the body sees a ‘video’ of an invasion, rather than just a snapshot. This allows the infection to play out for the immune system, and we can see how best to target the virus.

Professor Ooi Eng Eong via The Star

Lunar-Cov19 and Moderna’s vaccine are just two out of 25 potential vaccines being produced worldwide that have reached human trial phase, or at least obtained approval to do so.

Prof Ooi said he is confident that results from the study will be just as promising as other vaccines that have reached this stage of testing.

There are another 141 Covid-19 vaccines being produced across the globe which are still in the pre-clinical phase.


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