Foundation urges HK-made jabs lab in Lok Ma Chau Loop

Local | Wallis Wang 31 Aug 2021

A laboratory should be set up in the Lok Ma Chau Loop to develop Hong Kong-made vaccines, Our Hong Kong Foundation says.

Researchers at the University of Hong Kong's department of microbiology have developed VectorFlu ONE, the world's first Covid-19 nasal vaccine.

However, it is difficult for the research to enter the next stage as the city has no place to manufacture the vaccine, said the assistant research director of the foundation, Kenny Shui Chi-wai.

Shui said Hong Kong has the potential for biotechnology development, but it has failed to reach a "satisfying level" because of the lack of vaccine manufacturing factories and funds.

The clinical trials of the nasal vaccine were seriously delayed because there was no place to manufacture the vaccines and researchers had to contact mainland manufacturers for cooperation, Shui said.

He suggested that authorities build labs that meet good laboratory practice standards in the Lok Ma Chau Loop, including large-scale animal labs with all facilities to conduct biotechnology research.

So far, there is no GLP lab in Hong Kong, while the number of GLP labs in Shanghai is 12 and in Beijing 11, Shui said, adding it is necessary for Hong Kong to build such labs.

Shui said it usually takes biotechnology companies at least 10 years to develop and sell a product and the cost of the product development and promotion would cost US$250 million (HK$1.95 billion).

He appealed to the central government, Guangdong government, Shenzhen government and the SAR government to establish a Shenzhen/Hong Kong innovation and technology cooperation fund to support local companies. The Hong Kong-made vaccine shows the potential of local clinical trial businesses in the city, Shui said.

But the approval and authorization of vaccines in Hong Kong could take up to six months, which is far longer than the two-month period in the mainland and the United States, and the 30-day period in Australia.

Shui suggested that the Hong Kong government increase the number of experts in the vaccine advisory panel and frequency of meetings to accelerate the approval process of vaccines.

The foundation's deputy executive director, Stephen Wong Yuen-shan, also said Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area need to become an international innovation center.

And, Wong added, the Lok Ma Chau Loop is a key area for innovation development.

Most Hong Kong universities conduct only independent research and there is little research conducted by multiple universities or majors, Wong said.

He suggested the government set up a large-scale research institution to attract more talent.

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