Czech researchers complete first stage of COVID-19 emergency vaccine

Illustrative photo: pearson0612, Pixabay / CC0

The development of a Czech anti-coronavirus vaccine has passed the first stage of development, four months since the project began. Whether to continue developing the drug or not is one of the questions faced by the newly incumbent health minister, Roman Prymula. Any Czech vaccine would face tough international competition against more advanced big pharma projects if the aim were to send it commercially. However, according to one of the researchers, it was an effectiveness test of the Czech health system rather than an international competition.

On Tuesday, the daily Lidové noviny broke the story that after four months of development a joint research programme led by three Czech public health institutions has successfully completed the first stage of a domestic coronavirus vaccine.

Professor Věra Adámková, who is the appointed leader of the project, told the paper that the prototype has been tested successfully on rodents and a safe immunity reaction was observed.

The next stage would be a classical clinical trial which is currently waiting for the green light from the ministry, professor Adámková, who is also a member of the Chamber of Deputies for the ruling ANO party, told the paper.

Jakub Dvořáček,  photo: Marián Vojtek / Czech Radio

Jakub Dvořáček, the executive director of the Czech Association of Innovative Pharmaceutical Industry (AIFP), says that while nothing can be ruled out, it is hard to imagine the Czech Republic outpacing the big pharma industry which is currently far ahead in the race.

“When I compare the current phase of development with that of the big pharmaceutical companies, Pfitzer or AstraZeneca are already at the third stage of clinical trials and have 30,000 volunteers on the vaccine.

“Therefore, timewise, I do not think it is probable that a Czech vaccine will come at a moment when there will still be a market demand for such a product. Another question is, how advanced is the local Czech research?”

However, the actual goal of the project was different says Dr. Petr Lesný from the Institute of Hematology and Blood Transfusion, which took part in the project along with the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine and the State Health Department.

“The Ministry of Health decided to entrust three of its organisations to with develop an emergency vaccine. The project had two goals. The first was to develop a simple emergency immunising candidate against the coronavirus.

“But, secondly and more importantly, to test the preparedness of these institutions to work in tandem with each other when the borders are closed and everyone is working in home office.

“The emergency vaccines serve to bridge the time between the pandemic onset and the availability of a final vaccine, which is usually developed by big pharma or international, European initiatives. The emergency vaccines are complimentary to big vaccines.”

He says that, no matter whether the government decides to pursue the development of the vaccine further, the attempt to activate the relevant health institutions to react against a serious pandemic was successful.

The emergency vaccine can be worked upon further if complications related to the availability of a commercial vaccine would arise, he says.