A Dubai-based entrepreneur has backed a British biotech research company currently working on an affordable vaccine to protect against COVID-19.
Khurram Shroff, chairman of the UAE’s IBC Group, has donated a total of AED 5 million ($1.36m) to Vaxbio, also joining the company as a strategic advisor to assist with the development and communication of its corporate initiatives.
Vaxbio, a research and development company based in Oxford, produces affordable vaccines, clones and biologicals, with its team of experts reportedly having been able to sequence and successfully design a vaccine methodology that could help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. According to the company, early access to data has helped its experts already begin to test the vaccine on animals, in order to assess its effectiveness and detect any side-effects that may require to be monitored.
“Vaxbio plans to move to Clinical 1 and Clinical 2 trials as soon as possible, so that the vaccine is developed and in production by summer,” the company said in a statement.
Shroff elaborated: “[Expert] research at the University of Oxford gave [researchers at Vaxbio] early access to the sequencing of the coronavirus. They have devised a formulation that will be affordable.
“It will cost up to 50 cents per dose, which will allow for the production of the vaccine in batches of 20 million. This will enable us to provide assistance to several countries, at a national scale, within a week. We should be ready with the vaccine in the summer, especially if we get fast-tracked by the British Patent Office, and are adequately supported by resources.”
WHY IT MATTERS
At the time of publishing, data by the World Health Organization shows that confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to rise across the world – currently confirmed at 375,498 cases and 16,362 deaths across 195 countries. The three most affected countries at present are China (81,767), Italy (63,927) and the United States (42,164).
In the MENA region, the top five countries with the most cases are Iran (24,811), Saudi Arabia (767), Qatar (501), Bahrain (390), and Egypt (366).
THE LARGER CONTEXT
This is not the first action to be taken by IBC Group to tackle COVID-19. Earlier this month, it confirmed it was investing $1 million in a production facility for face masks and medical kits, with operations expected to begin soon. An estimated 300,000 to 600,000 face masks will be manufactured daily, the bulk of which will be sent to China.
“We are setting up a factory in the UAE; we plan to increase our capacity to 300,000 and double it every month moving forward, depending on the severity and spread of the epidemic,” said Shroff at the time. “We encourage all businesses that have the capacity to address this emerging need to set aside the profit motive and collaborate with each other.
“All our efforts are needed to protect ourselves within the UAE, and also in order that we can play a meaningful role in addressing the global demand for protective gear and medical kits.”