One sniff, and you’re vaccinated against Covid-19! Almost 100 percent protected against almost all variants.
It could be just that simple. No hassle for registration, hospital visit, cold chain storage or inoculation by medical staff. Just vaccinate yourself, at your convenience.
And that’s the promise an under-trial powdered vaccine is showing in which Bangladesh can be a part. A potential game-changing vaccine, as dubbed by Swedish researchers, now awaits human trial — the third and final phase of vaccine research and development before approval for use — which can be conducted right here in Bangladesh from next month.
If the government weighs in to ensure a smooth research and approval process, the nasal vaccine could be available for use by the start of next year.
And, if the trials get a clean chit, Bangladesh is free to buy the vaccine at production cost or even produce it on its own for being a party to the development of the vaccine, planned to be named after the Father of the Nation — Bangabandhu ISR.
Swedish research organisation Holding AB (ISR) is closing in on conducting human trial of its invented vaccine in Bangladesh, thanks to intense engagement of some Bangladesh-born doctors and scientists living in Sweden, the USA and Canada.
To conduct the human trial, the ISR signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Bangladesh Clinical Trials Ltd as its Contract Research Organisation (CRO) earlier this month.
Renowned physicians Prof ABM Abdullah and Prof Ahmedul Kabir are the principal investigators of the CRO, which plans to conduct the trial at Mugda Medical College Hospital in the capital.
They are planning to carry out the Phase-I trial on 180 healthy persons.
Contacted, Prof Abdullah said that after taking the first sniff, one has to get the second one within three to four weeks like any other double-dose Covid-19 vaccine.
“The results of the Swedish vaccine’s trial on mice are very promising as those show efficacy rate close to 100 percent, and there is no side effect of the vaccine.
“The prime minister knows everything about the vaccine. We have proposed naming it Bangabandhu ISR,” he said.
Talking to this newspaper, Prof Kabir said they have already prepared the protocol and are likely to submit it to Bangladesh Medical Research Council (BMRC) in the last week of this month for ethical permission to hold trial in the country.
Prof Kabir, secretary general of Bangladesh Society of Medicine, said that if phase-I trial is successful, phase-II and III trial will also take place here.
“The biggest benefit of the trial is that Bangladesh will be able to purchase the vaccine at production cost. Even the government can produce it under its own arrangement if it wants,” he observed.
According to ISR scientists, the dry-powder vaccine uses manufactured Covid-19 virus proteins and can withstand temperature of up to 40 degrees Celsius.
They also said a major advantage of the vaccine in development is the conditions needed to store it compared to the currently available Covid vaccines approved by the World Health Organization.
“The game-changer is that you could distribute the [powder] vaccine extremely easily without the cold chain, and it can be administered without the need for healthcare providers,” said a BBC report on July 26 quoting ISR founder, Ola Winquist, a professor of immunology at the Karolinska Institute, one of Sweden’s leading medical universities.
In a press release on the ISR website, Ola Winqvist, the CEO of ISR, said, “We are very pleased to be working with experts from Bangladesh to conduct a Phase I clinical study with our vaccine formulations designed for optimal immune response at the entry point of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the respiratory tract.”
Prof Kabir told this newspaper that if they get permission for clinical trial, a local drug-maker which struck a deal with the ISR will supply the vaccine.
The ISR signed a MoU with UniMed UniHealth Pharmaceuticals Ltd on July 6 for manufacture and distribution of its Covid-19 vaccine in Bangladesh.
“The purpose of MoU is to agree on a long-term cooperation agreement with a licensing agreement that gives UniMed an exclusive right to manufacture and distribute ISR’s vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Bangladesh,” said an ISR statement on its website.
UniMed will manufacture 100 million units per year with an aim to produce 300 million units or more annually within five years, it mentioned.
Prof Kabir said if everything goes smoothly and the BMRC gives quick approval, the phase-I trial will be completed by November. And analysing the data, the third phase trial can be started by December.
“We hope to produce vaccine here from January next year,” said an optimistic Kabir.
INITIATION OF THE PROCESS
It all started when Bangladesh-born Swedish economist Shahjahan Sayeed, who is acquainted with Ola Winqvist, came to know about the invention of the dry-powder vaccine.
Shahjahan then communicated the matter to Arifur Rahman, a Bangladesh-born doctor living in Canada, to explore the possibility of a human trial of the vaccine in Bangladesh.
Arifur then asked four Bangladesh-born US citizens — cardiologists Prof Choudhury Hafiz Ahsan and Prof Masudul Hassan, nephrologist Prof Ziauddin Ahmed Sadek and former senior UN official Mahmud Ush Sams Choudhury to contact doctors in Bangladesh for initiating trial here.
Prof Abdullah and Prof Kabir then prepared a protocol for the trial with Arifur playing the lead role and coordinating the whole thing from Sweden.
Talking to this newspaper, Arifur said they came forward as Bangladesh is suffering badly due to Covid.
“Now everything is almost ready and we are expecting to get within 15 days a toxicology report on whether the vaccine has any adverse effects. Once we get the report from a German organisation, we will send it to the CRO so that it can apply to the Bangladesh authorities for ethical permission for the trial.
“We hope the trial will be a success and Bangladesh will get the chance to become a leader in Covid vaccine production…”
Prof Masudul said, “If everything goes as planned, we will consider it a great service to the nation.”
“Patriotism is the lone driving force behind our efforts. There is nothing else. We wanted to do something for the country in this moment of crisis. Earlier, we had managed ventilators and vaccines from the USA and sent those to Bangladesh.”