With Malaysian-made Covid-19 vaccine a possibility, firm pleads for Putrajaya’s backing

R. Loheswar
Earlier this week, Israel’s Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis announced that Israeli scientists were on the cusps of developing the first vaccine against the novel coronavirus. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 — A local vaccine manufacturer has pleaded for cooperation and support from Putrajaya, claiming it is being hampered by red tape despite allegedly having a potential cure to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Puchong-based Malaysian Vaccines and Pharmaceuticals (MVP) Sdn Bhd said it needs a sample of the novel coronavirus in order to develop a strand of poultry vaccine that it has developed for some time.

Speaking to Malay Mail, its executive director Rashidah Ibrahim claimed the company has faced multiple postponed meetings in an attempt to meet the health minister in order to request for a sample from the Institute of Medical Research (IMR).

“The IMR is the national seed bank for storing viruses and bacteria for research purposes. But in my opinion if you’re keeping it to yourselves and still no results are forthcoming, then why not collaborate with us?

“After reading about what the Israelis did we felt we can try to do the same thing and hopefully we can get a positive result from it,” she told Malay Mail.

Rashidah was referring to the vaccine currently being developed by the Israeli state-funded firm Migal Galilee Research Institute Ltd.

Earlier this week, Israel’s Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis announced that Israeli scientists were on the cusps of developing the first vaccine against the novel coronavirus, which could then be ready within a few weeks and available in 90 days.

The Jerusalem Post reported that researchers at Migal had examined the novel coronavirus’ DNA, and found that it has high genetic similarity to the poultry coronavirus. Since it uses the same infection mechanism, there is also a high chance of making an effective human version of the vaccine.

MVP was co-founded by Datuk Abdul Latif Ibrahim, a respected local veterinary virologist and professor emeritus at Universiti Putra Malaysia, who now serves as one of its veterinary advisers.

In 1996, together with fellow professor Datin Paduka Aini lderis, the duo developed the fowl pox tissue culture vaccine.

“You see the one attacking humans now is the novel coronavirus. So much like the common flu has many varieties, coronavirus also has a few types.

“Hence when I heard we may have a chance to find a cure as we have the similar vaccine to the Israelis, we tried very hard to get someone to listen to us,” Rashidah related.

“In fact, last year around August I met the previous government officials including Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and told them we need pandemic preparedness facilities.

“But the government wasn’t ready to put the money in as we we’re reeling from a poor economy and there were no imminent threats on the horizon,” she added, referring to the previous government which was replaced earlier this month.

Rashidah now said she is hoping to meet officials from the now Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation this morning, and hopes something good comes out of it.

Last night, science minister Khairy Jamaluddin acknowledged the development of MVP’s vaccine.

“I am contacting every party, thank you,” he tweeted, quoting a tweet by user Hayani Ishan who brought up the topic of the vaccine developed by MVP.

This comes as Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said last night he is considering connecting Malaysian experts with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to see if a potential Covid-19 can be developed.

He said although a general influenza vaccine exists, efforts to formulate a Covid-19 specific vaccine have only recently begun in the West.

Currently three other US-based pharmaceutical and research corporations are also conducting varying forms of tests to produce a Covid-19 specific vaccine, either by utilising the virus’ genetic sequence or by formulating an antibody treatment.

On its website, MVP said it is the first and only veterinary vaccine manufacturer in Malaysia, with over 25 years’ experience in animal healthcare.

Among others, it manufactures vaccines for commercially-debilitating diseases such as fowl pox, Newcastle disease, infectious bronchitis, and swine fever.

Yesterday, the Health Ministry said it detected 110 new confirmed Covid-19 cases, bringing the country’s total to 900.

Putrajaya had on Monday said Malaysia will effectively be hitting pause on all non-essential activities for two weeks until March 31 to stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus under a nationwide movement control order.


 

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