A Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) grant awarded to a consortium of researchers from the UK and Thailand, led by Professor Colin Robinson (School of Biosciences, University of Kent), aims to establish production capacity for biopharmaceuticals and animal vaccines in Thailand.
The grant kicked off with a great meeting of the whole consortium in Bangkok in December. Research teams from the National Biopharmaceutical Facility (NBF) at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi and The National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC), Bangkok, are joining forces with researchers from the University of Kent, UCL, Imperial College and LSHTM to undertake this ambitious project.
Biopharmaceuticals are protein drugs that are used to treat a wide variety of diseases, including cancer and auto-immune diseases. These drugs are normally produced in animal or bacterial cells, which means they are expensive to make. Thailand currently imports all of its b iopharmaceuticals, making them prohibitively expensive for most patients, resulting in fewer than 2% of patients having access to anti-cancer biopharmaceuticals that are routinely used in the UK. Likewise, imported animal vaccines are expensive and often ineffective because they are not designed to combat the strains of virus that affect livestock locally.
The aim of this GCRF project is to combine the expertise of scientists in the UK with those in Thailand in order to develop the capacity for Thailand to make their own biopharmaceuticals and animal vaccines, reducing costs and in turn, widening availability. In the long term, the project aims to not only develop a production pipeline for biopharmaceuticals and animal vaccines in Thailand, but to disseminate the processes and results from this project to allow neighbouring SE Asian countries to begin production of these “high-tech” drugs, ultimately leading to a significant improvement in human health in this region.