S'pore to get first claim on successful Covid-19 vaccine developed by US pharmaceutical company

The company is jointly developing the vaccine with Duke-NUS Medical School.

Matthias Ang | August 05, 2020, 04:56 PM

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Singapore will receive the first claim to a successful Covid-19 vaccine developed by U.S. pharmeceutical company Arcturus Therapeutics Holdings, Bloomberg reported.

The CEO of the company, Joseph Payne, stated,"The understanding is that because Singapore funded and helped us develop the vaccine, our intention is to definitely play a key role in their vaccination strategy."

Received a grant of S$13.7 million from EDB earlier this year

According to The San Diego Union Tribune in March, the company had received a grant of US$10 million (S$13.7 million) from the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB).

Part of the grant was paid in advance, while the remainder will be paid based on the achievement of milestones in the vaccine's development.

A joint press release by Duke-NUS Medical School and Arcturus in July stated that the vaccine, which is called LUNAR-COV19, is being developed jointly between Duke-NUS and Arcturus, and that it has since received approval from the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) to proceed with clinical trials.

Payne also highlighted Duke-NUS' record on infectious diseases, and noted that it had developed the first serological test for Covid-19 and was one of the first few organisations to to isolate and culture the virus.

As such, this makes the vaccine one of roughly 20 Covid-19 vaccine projects globally to have reached the clinical trial phase.

Trial is due to be completed in October

The vaccine's trials are due to be completed in October, with the results to be made available afterwards, Bloomberg further reported, citing the deputy director of Duke-NUS’s emerging infectious diseases program, Ooi Eng Eong.

Should the clinical trials be successful, the vaccine will then be deployed in another trial, on a larger scale across several countries with higher infection rates, to determine its effectiveness.

Currently, the vaccine is being tested on 108 individuals, with Ooi striking an optimistic note on its potential as a single-dose vaccine, according to the joint press release.

"Preclinical studies on LUNAR-COV19 have shown very promising findings, including the possibility that a single dose of this vaccine may be sufficient to trigger robust and durable immune responses against SARS-CoV-2. We are very eager to start the first-in-human clinical trial here in Singapore and advance LUNAR-COV19 on its journey to becoming a potential commercial vaccine."

He further added that a single dose would also work better, logistics-wise, for delivery to the public, echoing Payne in March, who had laid out Singapore's selection of Arcturus in the following manner:

"What we bring to the equation here is a single-shot solution and a 30-fold improvement in dosing. That is why Singapore selected us.”

Singapore government will own the rights to a successful vaccine within its borders

The San Diego Union Tribune further highlighted that should the vaccine be successful, the Singapore government will own the rights to the vaccine within the country, with Arcturus free to distribute it elsewhere.

Both Arcturus and Duke-NUS aim to produce up to 30 million doses for the initial batch of a successful vaccine, depending on the dose.

Top image from Duke-NUS Medical School Facebook