Malaysia-born immunologist, Suresh Mahalingam, is leading a team of researchers working to develop a vaccine for Covid-19. Suresh is the Principal Research Leader at Institute for Glycomics, Griffith University, Australia.

The researcher said that the vaccine would be “live-attenuated” and therefore expected to be highly effective as it would provide a strong cellular and antibody immune responses against the virus. Suresh hailed from Kuala Lumpur but grew up in Bandar Pusat Jengka and has been based in Australia for last 26 years.

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He went on to say that the vaccine will mimic the infection of the real virus but cannot cause disease. It can also induce all arms of the immune response. He said the other benefits of a live-attenuated vaccine was a proven record for economical large-scale manufacturing and a well-known regulatory approval pathway.

At present, they are at the pre-clinical stage (cell culture and animal testing) and are aiming to complete this within the next few months. Suresh hopes to commence human trials as soon as possible.

“We expect, if approved, that this vaccine may reach the market sometime in late 2021, ”

A team of 13 staff and students was working around the clock on the vaccine development. They have signed an agreement with an international vaccine pharmaceutical company, Indian Immunologicals (IIL), to develop the vaccine.

Suresh mentioned that biggest challenge is to identify the best approach to take, such as a live-attenuated vaccine, killed vaccine or sub-unit protein expression vaccine. One method of vaccine production doesn’t necessarily work for all types of diseases, he said.

Previously, his lab also developed and patented novel vaccines for chikungunya and Zika viruses. He said these vaccines were being developed in collaboration with major international pharmaceutical companies, who were expected to submit the application for conducting clinical trials in due course.

“I am passionate about giving back to the scientific community and get enormous satisfaction from the scientific process of developing a vaccine for Covid-19, ”

He stressed the importance of vaccines and ensuring there was adequate vaccination within the population was probably the most important thing everyone could learn from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Source: The Star Online