Indonesia's Kalbe works on vaccine as coronavirus cases surge by record

A volunteer during a clinical trial for a Covid-19 vaccine in Bandung, Indonesia, on Aug 14, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA (BLOOMBERG) - Indonesia's biggest pharmaceutical company plans to distribute Covid-19 vaccines by the end of next year as the country grapples with one of Asia's biggest outbreaks of the disease.

PT Kalbe Farma expects to begin phase two of clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine in November, after its South Korean partner biotech firm Genexine is set to complete phase one trials in October, president director Vidjongtius said by phone on Thursday (Aug 27).

There are faster-moving efforts around the world that have reached the final stages of testing their vaccine's efficacy, while front runners in China have sent their shots to hot spots including Indonesia for final-stage trials.

As superpowers like the United States secure deals to procure billions of doses, poorer countries from Thailand to Nigeria are researching their own vaccines amid concern they might fall last in line for the shots.

Kalbe joins state-owned drugmaker PT Bio Farma with plans to produce the vaccine locally as soon as January as the pandemic shows no signs of easing.

Indonesia marked another record increase in the number of new coronavirus cases, adding 2,719 confirmed infections on Thursday to the total 162,884 - triple the number seen at the end of June.

The phase two trials for the DNA vaccine called GX-19 may involve up to 600 people in Indonesia alone and is set to last until May 2021, Mr Vidjongtius said.

Kalbe plans to buy the finished product from Genexine to distribute locally and may spend one trillion rupiah (S$93 million) to build a plant with annual capacity to produce up to 30 million doses.

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