- The vaccine will be produced by state-owned Essential Drugs
- Vaccine production might start within next six months
- MoU will be signed with Dyadic International over transfer of raw materials and technology for producing vaccine
- Technical committee on vaccine production has recommended allowing Dyadic to conduct clinical trials in the country
- Appointments of consultant and scientist are in process
The government is planning to produce a coronavirus vaccine in the country through transfer of technology, using the formula invented by the US-based company Dyadic International.
Necessary steps are being taken to produce this vaccine at Essential Drugs Company Limited (EDCL), a state-owned drug manufacturing company in Gopalganj.
Initiatives are underway for a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to be signed in order to come by Dyadic's formula and technology, to set up vaccine plants in steel structures and to expedite the process of land acquisition.
If everything goes according to plan, the country might start producing protein vaccines within the next six months.
Professor ABM Khurshid Alam, convener of the Technical Committee on Vaccine Production and Director General of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) told The Business Standard, "Negotiations are underway with the American company Dyadic. If they agree to transfer the technology, the vaccine will be produced in the country. If not, the vaccine will be brought in bulk and finished here."
The US biotechnology firm Dyadic International has already joined the race to produce Covid-19 vaccines in Africa, the least-vaccinated continent.
The company announced in July this year a technology transfer and licensing deal with South Africa's Rubic Consortium. Permission will be sought for the Covid-19 vaccine trial this year, according to a Bloomberg report.
Essential Drugs Company has meanwhile held several meetings with Dyadic International.
The government initially bought the Oxford University-developed AstraZeneca vaccine, which was supposed to be obtained from the Serum Institute of India. But, after supplying several consignments, India stopped exporting the vaccine due to increased corona infections within its territory. Then the Bangladesh government bought Pfizer, Moderna and Sinopharm vaccines from alternative sources.
An MoU will be signed with Dyadic over the transfer of raw materials and technology for producing vaccines in the country. A draft MoU has already been prepared. The MoU will be signed after getting government approval.
Professor Dr Ehsanul Kabir Jaglul, managing director of Essential Drugs Company Limited, said, "Dyadic International wants to sign an MoU. It will be signed after getting permission from the committee formed by the health ministry. Work on the signing of the MoU is in progress. If it is not signed, there is a risk that they will go elsewhere."
In addition to Dyadic, discussions are underway to produce protein vaccine invented by Russia's Sputnik-V and Oxford University, according to a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare held on 13 October.
At the meeting, it was recommended that necessary steps be taken for the rapid production of vaccines in the country.
The meeting was informed that on the advice of experts, the main equipment for making corona vaccine will be imported from Europe, America and Japan while other equipment will be imported from various Asian countries, including China, South Korea and Taiwan.
An estimated cost relating to the imports has also been set by contacting various foreign equipment manufacturing and supplier organisations.
Technical committee on vaccine production and its recommendations
The government formed a nine-member Covid-19 Resistant Vaccine Production Technical Committee on 12 July this year, to make recommendations to the government by reviewing proposals and taking steps to produce effective and safe vaccines.
After holding five meetings since its formation, the committee put forward various recommendations for vaccine production.
According to committee sources, the technical committee has recommended that trials be allowed in the country to determine the efficacy and side effects of the vaccine invented by Dyadic International since Dyadic invented the formula but could not complete the trial. If the trial is allowed on the condition that the vaccine will be produced in Bangladesh, it can be produced as soon as possible. The committee recommended allowing the trial because formulas of the corona vaccines invented so far are not easily available.
Committee sources said there is also a shortage of raw materials of vaccine due to the widespread global demand for the corona vaccine. However, there will not be any shortage of raw materials for the production of Dyadic protein vaccines.
Dr Abdur Rahman, a member of the technical committee and dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy of Dhaka University, told TBS that it has been recommended that Dyadic be allowed to conduct clinical trials in the country; in return it will assist in setting up a vaccine plant and provide vaccine formula.
He said, "If this is done, we will get the vaccine formula in a short time and they will also get an advantage. The protein vaccine has a big advantage as there will be no shortage of raw materials for it. However, there is a shortage of raw materials for other vaccines due to the global demand."
Infrastructure development of Essential Drugs
Although the government has taken the initiative to produce vaccines by the state-owned Essential Drugs Company, it does not have adequate and necessary infrastructure.
It was established in 1983 with the main objective of setting up an advanced pharmaceuticals industry in the country to produce medicines.
But this outdated pharmaceutical company does not have the necessary equipment and modern laboratory to produce corona vaccines. It is not possible to produce corona vaccines with its existing infrastructure.
However, the government's emphasis on vaccine production has removed the complexity of infrastructure development.
As the construction of a concrete building is time consuming, it has been decided to construct the building within a steel structure.
For the building eight acres of land have been acquired next to Essential Drugs Company. The steel structure will be built on the land to accommodate the necessary labs and equipment for vaccine production.
As per recommendations of experts, the vaccine will be stored in a cold room and cool room of the manufacturing plant at a temperature of 2-8 degrees centigrade.
Professor ABM Khurshid Alam said, "Ninety percent of the land has been acquired for the construction of the vaccine plant and the remaining 10% will be acquired this month."
"A steel structure will be built there to go into production as soon as possible. The appointments of a consultant and a scientist are in the process," he added.