A locally developed emergency vaccine against the virulent H5N1 strain of bird flu is expected to be ready for clinical trials in the second half of this year, a senior Department of Health (DOH) official said on Friday.
The emergency vaccine, developed by the National Health Research Institute, will mainly be used for emergency use in the event of an H5N1 outbreak in humans, said Shih Wen-yi (施文儀), deputy director of the DOH’s Centers for Disease Control.
Shih said the DOH was scheduled to authorize clinical trials for the locally developed bird flu vaccines in the second quarter of this year and that the first phase of the trials were expected to get underway in the third quarter.
As the research institute has a limited production capacity, Shih said, the locally developed vaccine would only be enough for emergency use if Taiwan was struck by an H5N1 outbreak in humans.
A few years ago, the DOH launched a build-operate-own (BOO) project under which a private contractor was chosen to produce locally developed human bird flu vaccines.
The bid, however, was dropped because the winning contractor was later merged into another entity in a corporate restructuring.
Shih said the DOH was appraising the feasibility of renewing the BOO project to draw the private sector into investing in human H5N1 vaccine production.
Meanwhile, a research team headed by Academia Sinica President Wong Chi-huey (翁啟惠) at the institute’s Genomics Research Center has developed DNA-based vaccines against both human influenza and avian flu, academic sources said.
The sources said the procedural platform developed by the team could produce the DNA-based vaccines for emergency use within six months.
The team’s research findings have been published in the US science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.