Pakistan has earned $10 million by conducting first-ever Phase-III clinical trials for the single-dose Chinese Covid-19 vaccine CanSino Bio at five leading public and private health facilities in the country, and now the National Institute of Health (NIH) is going to earn 30 million dollars within a year by co-manufacturing the same vaccine after technology transfer from China, officials said on Saturday.
“Phase-III clinical trials of the CanSino Biologics single-dose Covid-19 were the first-ever such trials conducted in Pakistan and we earned $10 million by conducting these trials at five centres in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Now we are being approached by companies from the UK, Korea and Japan, as well as from China for conducting Phase-III clinical trials of several more vaccines, which can earn us huge revenue and foreign exchange,” said Major General Aamer Ikram, executive director of the National Institute of Health Islamabad, at a health conference in Karachi.
He said they had also started co-manufacturing the single-dose Adenovirus (Ad5)-vectored Covid-19 vaccine with CanSino Bio at the NIH Islamabad, and claimed that within a year, they were hopeful of earning around $30 million through the joint manufacturing of the vaccine in the country.
“And this successful venture has opened doors of numerous more such opportunities for Pakistan and now several biotechnological companies from the UK, Korea, Japan and of course China are willing to conduct Phase-III clinical trials of their vaccines in Pakistan, which can earn huge revenue and foreign exchange for Pakistan at a time when even a single dollar matters a lot for the country,” he said while speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the 4th BUMDC International Conference titled “Healthcare: Challenges and Innovations”.
Urging the healthcare institutions and medical universities to become part of the process of Phase-III clinical trials of various vaccines and medicines in the country, Major General Ikram said he would also like to see the Bahria University Medical and Dental College (BUMDC) as one of the centers for these trials. He urged other health institutions and varsities to upgrade themselves for this emerging opportunity.
Commenting on the role of the NIH Islamabad, he said that following restructuring, it was now a national institute of health which comprised several institutes. He added that they were playing an important role in conducting genome sequencing of prevalent variants of SARS-COV-2 in Pakistan.
“With the help of genome sequencing at the NIH Islamabad we are now aware which variant is prevalent in any given city of Pakistan. We are also going to establish a consortium of institutes conducting genome sequencing where the Aga Khan University in Karachi is already with us while the Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) is soon going to start the genome sequencing on its own. We would also like BUMDC to take an initiative in this regard too.”
Highlighting the achievements of Pakistan in the fight against Covid-19, the NIH executive director said that
last year Pakistan started the PCR testing with 1,000 donated kits, but now over 200 laboratories were conducting PCR tests across the country, including areas as far as Gwadar and the Taftan border. He added that the country had the capacity to conduct over 100,000 PCR tests on a daily basis.
On the occasion, he highlighted the importance of prevention of diseases as Pakistan could not afford to treat all the sick people. He hoped that the 4th BUMDC International Conference would highlight the importance of the preventive aspect of diseases.
The chancellor of the Malir University and eminent health expert, Prof Tipu Sultan, spoke about the poor state of health and wellbeing in Pakistan where clean drinking water was still a luxury. He deplored that thousands of women died annually in Pakistan during pregnancy while thousands of children did not survive even after the first year of their birth in the country.
Renowned maxillofacial surgeon and former Karachi Medical and Dental College principal Prof Dr. Mahmood Haider spoke about the devastation being caused by oral tobacco especially Paan, Gutka, Naswar and Chalia, saying hundreds of people both men and women were dying due to cancer of head and neck by consuming these hazardous products.
The international conference will continue till Sunday evening during which experts from international and local health institutions will speak on the prevalence, treatment and prevention of communicable and non-communicable diseases in the country.