Adimmune, Taiwan’s only home-grown human-vaccine manufacturer and supplier, has reached the animal-testing phase in a bid to produce a vaccine against the Covid-19 virus.

The new drug is currently being tested on laboratory mice. The research team hopes that manufacturing can begin in June, general manager Dr. Chung-Cheng Liu told The News Lens. If the company succeeds in its lobbying of the government’s regulatory agency, clinical human trials could start as early as July.

This would require the government’s emergency authorization, Liu added.

At the forefront of the management team is CEO and chairman Dr. Chi Steve Chan, a former health minister. During his time in government, Chan was a strong advocate for Taiwan’s observer status in the World Health Organization (WHO). However, the WHO’s exclusion of Taiwan, coupled with the devastating effects of the SARS outbreak, led both Chan and his successors in government to the realization that self-producing vaccines was vital for Taiwan’s security and future development.

Since taking leadership of Adimmune in 2008, Chan has helped transform the company from a small business producing antidote from venomous snakes to an international vaccine manufacturer. The opening of Adimmune’s first mass-production factory in 2009 coincided with the outbreak of the H1N1 flu pandemic, during which the company supplied almost 10 million doses of vaccine. Since then, the flu vaccine has become a main source of profits for Adimmune. The firm has carved out a niche as the only vaccine company with permission to sell in China without having a manufacturing facility in the country. The Taiwanese government is another major client, which provides the vaccine for free to its citizens.

Taiwan’s biotech sector is now an NT$500 billion (US$16 billion) industry, a leader in the Asian market. Furthermore, Taiwan’s established information technology sector means that the country is well-placed for future developments in biopharma, which is increasingly looking towards IT as a tool for more accurate diagnosis and treatments.

The biotech industry has also fared very well despite the chaos of the pandemic. Liu describes the sector as “increasingly vibrant.” While the world is locking down and entire industries are struggling to keep afloat, Adimmune is opening doors to international cooperation.

According to Liu, America’s de facto embassy, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) has recently proposed partnerships with Adimmune, an agreement that could vault the local firm into even larger markets. However, with China and American relations souring, the company is being forced to tread carefully.

“In a world like today, everyone is forced to take sides — we are trying not to because we have business in China,” said Liu.

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TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty, Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)

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