Singapore—Arcturus Therapeutics Holdings, an American biotech company based in San Diego, California, has been in partnership with Duke-NUS Medical School in the development of a Covid-19 vaccine. According to a report from Bloomberg, the company aims to produce a single-dose vaccine and is now in the early stages of testing on humans.
Singapore, which is funding Arcturus’ research, will have first claim at the first vaccines successfully developed by the company.
Arcturus’ Chief Executive Officer Joseph Payne is quoted by Bloomberg as saying on August 4, “The understanding is that because Singapore funded and helped us develop the vaccine, our intention is to definitely play a key role in their vaccination strategy.”
With Covid-19 vaccines in demand as they are seen as the only guarantee of a return to normalcy and the full reopening of countries’ economies, different nations have entered into agreements with large pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca in the search and development of a safe and effective vaccine. Other countries are developing their own vaccines or have partnered with smaller firms, just as Singapore has done with Arcturus.
The company’s stock has risen sharply, with shares increasing by almost 400 percent from the beginning of the year. Lunar-Cov19, Arcturus’ vaccine, is one of around 20 vaccines in development around the world to reach the clinical trial phase, although the company has not yet released a timeline for the distribution of the vaccine.
Approval for testing in the country was granted by the Health Sciences Authority last month to begin on over 100 volunteers from different ages. This stage of the trial is expected to end by October, said the deputy director of Duke-NUS’s emerging infectious diseases programme, Ooi Eng Eong.
Dr Ooi also commented on the company’s goal of producing a single-dose vaccine, which differs from the approach of other pharmaceutical companies, who are developing double doses to ensure long-lasting efficacy. This approach is more expensive, as well as more challenging in terms of wide distribution.
He said, “A single dose will work so much better in terms of the logistics to get people protected against Covid-19.”
According to Bloomberg, “The Lunar-Cov19 vaccine is self-replicating and would extend the duration that an individual’s immune system is exposed to the antigen, hopefully triggering a sufficiently robust immune response over time.”
Mr Payne added that if the trials are a success, the next stage will be a larger trial in countries where the virus is prevalent so that its effectivity can be further determined.
The company, which has signed an agreement with Catalent Inc for the production of the vaccine, aims to develop as many as 30 million doses in its first batch. Arcturus is also in partnership to supply Lunar-Cov19 to Israel.