Written by: Dr.Yaman Walid Kassab
Ho Wah Genting Berhad (HWGB, Bursa Stock Code: 9601) had entered into a joint venture agreement, through its wholly-owned subsidiary HWGB Biotech Sdn Bhd, with US-based E-Mo Biology Inc. (EBI) for the research and development of vaccines, immunological treatment and diagnostic product in relation to COVID-19. Once Phase IV clinical trial is proven successful for the new indication of oral poliovirus vaccine (“OPV”), HWGB will begin the production and distribution of its own COVID-19 vaccine. OPV is safe, relatively affordable and can be administered easily as well as its widespread availability in medical industry.
Safety and Effectiveness of the Oral Poliovirus Vaccine Well accepted by most public health programmes, OPVs are extremely safe and effective, offering long-lasting protection against targeted virus. Both the poliovirus and coronavirus are positive-strand RNA viruses, so it is likely that they will induce and be affected by common innate immunity mechanisms. Furthermore, crystal structure analysis has demonstrated structural similarities of RNA-dependent RNA polymerase between poliovirus and SARS. Over one billion doses of oral poliovirus vaccine are produced and used annually in more than 140 countries. There are multiple advantages to using OPV: a strong safety record, the existence of more than one serotype that could be used sequentially to prolong protection, low cost, ease of administration, and easy transportation as well as availability.
OPV is inexpensive and remarkably affordable. Only one dose is sufficient for the vaccine to take effect. In addition, OPVs are administered orally and do not require health professionals or sterile needle syringes. As such, OPVs are easy to administer in mass vaccination campaigns.
General Manager, Medical & Pharmaceutical Research of HWGB Biotech, Dr Yaman Walid Kassab, expressed: “As the world searches for a way to end the coronavirus pandemic, the race is on to find and produce a vaccine. The type of production facilities needed will depend on which kind of vaccine turns out to work best.” He further stated that, if billions of people need a new kind of vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 while Pharmaceutical firms continue to produce the normal array of shots against influenza, measles, mumps, rubella and other diseases, there could be a production shortage. This is because huge amount of money and time will be poured into setting up manufacturing plants for the new vaccine. The good news is, however, there are production plants for poliovirus vaccine readily available in Asia.
Most COVID-19 vaccines currently in development require a strict temperature-controlled environment of -70°C, unlike the poliovirus vaccine that can be stored at 4-8°C. OPV does not require a high-performing active thermal shipper. The time to move shippers into an active air cargo container, therefore, can typically be shortened by more than 10 days. Reduced lead time for advance planning and lease forecasting will ensure an adequate supply of containers for OPV distribution without negatively affecting the distribution of other pharmaceuticals.
Covid-19 vaccines require advanced freezers that can reach extremely low temperatures (minus 80 °C) when compared against poliovirus vaccines. At the same time, trucks that provide refrigerated transportation for the pharmaceutical industry will have to comply with the varying storage requirements of different vaccines. As a result, it can be quite challenging to maintain the cold chain from production through delivery to distributors or distribution centres. Cold storage capacity in the Asia Pacific region is limited compared to developed Western markets. In the case of poliovirus vaccine, given that there would not be much loss in virus titre for up to a year when stored at 4-8°C, there is less hassle with storage and transportation.
In summary, HWGB Biotech had signed an agreement to collaborate with EBI in developing a preventive COVID-19 vaccine through Phase IV clinical trials based on the use of poliovirus vaccine. This collaboration involves research and development, testing, registration, manufacturing and commercialisation of five provisional patent applications. The related clinical trial has gained the approval from the US Food and Drug Administration.
ABOUT HO WAH GENTING BERHAD
Ho Wah Genting Berhad (“HWGB” or the “Company”) is principally engaged in investment holdings and the provision of management services to its subsidiaries. The Company had on 30 June 2020 diversified its existing businesses to include healthcare related industry which mainly involved in health supplement, biotechnology and health technology. In addition, the Company and its subsidiaries (“HWGB Group” or the “Group”) are also engaging in the businesses of investment holdings; manufacturing of wires and cables and moulded power supply cord sets and cable assemblies for electrical and electronic devices and equipment; trading of wires and cables; and travel agent and tour related services.
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Dr.Yaman Walid Kassab is an assistant Professor of Clinical Pharmacy. He obtained his PhD in Clinical Pharmacy at University Science Malaysia (USM) in 2013. He possesses 7 years of experience in the academia, specifically in the pharmacotherapy field. He is actively involved in medical research and publication and has published more than 40SCOPUS/ISI indexed research papers and has supervised more than 50 research projects and 20 postgraduate research students. He is also serving as an editorial Board member of several reputed international journals like “Frontiers in Pharmacology”, “Archives of Pharmacy Practice (APP)” , “Journal of Medical and Pharmaceutical Innovation (JMPI)” , ”Annals of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Diseases” , “Updates in Public Health and Preventive Medicine” He has been a member of many international professional bodies such as International Association of Therapeutic Drug Monitoring & Clinical Toxicology in CANADA, Syndicate of Syrian Pharmacists, Malaysian Association of Education in Medicine & Health Sciences, Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society.
Issued by: Esente Communications (M) Sdn. Bhd. on behalf of Ho Wah Genting Berhad
Date: 17 November 2020
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