Takara Bio to mass-produce COVID-19 vaccine candidate

TOKYO — Japanese biotech company Takara Bio plans to mass produce novel coronavirus vaccinations as early as this year, President and CEO Koichi Nakao told Nikkei in an interview.

Takara partnered with bio company AnGes and Osaka University to develop the DNA vaccine. It will start clinical trials in the summer. If Japan’s health ministry approves a production and sales license this fall, the company would be ready to supply vaccines to 200,000 people this year.

The vaccines would be produced in Takara’s main factory in the city of Kusatsu, Shiga Prefecture. Once drug companies can mass produce vaccines, governments can start easing the current restrictions on people’s movements and business activities.

Nakao said facilities to produce hundreds of vaccines required for the trial are “perfectly ready.” He also said “there is no problem [with mass production] if we apply the existing technologies.”

Takara’s DNA vaccine will take some of the virus’s gene information and give it to the patient’s immune system. The immune system would then be able to attack the virus when it enters the body.

The vaccine can be produced faster compared to existing ones that weaken the virus. Takara Bio plans to use production facilities previously used for gene therapy drugs.

According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 60 vaccine candidates for the novel coronavirus developed by pharmaceutical companies and startups around the world.

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