Portuguese vaccine for six months waiting for state support: "Perhaps Portugal is not prepared for this type of intervention"

The vaccine against covid-19 developed by the Portuguese biotechnology company Immunethep has been waiting for state funding for six months, necessary for clinical trials and to be able to reach the market, the company’s executive director told Lusa.

“The vaccine is something we developed to respond to the pandemic. On a global scale, those projects that have advanced and are on the market at the moment, all had state support that allowed them to move forward faster than usual”, said Bruno Santos, co-founder and administrator of the company based in Cantanhede, in the district of Coimbra.

“In our case, we still haven’t had a capital injection that would allow us to have this speed. until the middle of the year [de 2021] we have completed all non-clinical animal trials that show both the efficacy and the safety of our vaccine [administrada por inalação]. And, since then, we are waiting for an investment to be made that will allow us to carry out the rest of the project, that is, to carry out clinical trials in people and bring the vaccine to the market”, he argued.

For the development of the vaccine to be able to advance, Bruno Santos estimated a value “between 20 and 30 million euros”.

The administrator gave the example of what happened in Germany “where the German State put 300 million in three different biotechnology companies, with different technologies: one of them was BioNTech [que desenvolveu a vacina contra a covid-19 em parceria com a Pfizer]”.

“We are talking about 10% of what the German government has invested. And this is return financing, they financed an advance purchase and received the payment they had advanced when they received the vaccines back”, he emphasized.

Company talks about the company’s “disadvantage” in the international market

According to Bruno Santos, “perhaps Portugal is not prepared for this type of emergency intervention”.

“Although the people we contacted in the Government were very interested and supportive of the project, we were referred to traditional forms of support, such as Portugal 2020 and now the PRR [Plano de Recuperação e Resiliência], which are quite bureaucratic, with a very lengthy approval process and which ends up not being compatible with a necessary response to a pandemic”, he noted.

“This is where there can be a bigger shock to reality. In our case, it puts us at a disadvantage compared to other companies, direct competitors, which had this support from different states”, stressed the director of Immunethep.

Despite the delay in financial support, Bruno Santos remains confident that the Portuguese biotechnology company will continue to develop its vaccine: “But of course not at the speed we could do. Other companies, in other countries, that had this financing, may already be selling their products and we, if we had had such support, could also be doing the same from Portugal”, he reaffirmed.

As for an eventual arrival on the market, the administrator of Immunethep noted that the approval of the new vaccine “depends a lot on the regulatory authorities”, not anticipating a deadline for this authorization to occur.

“At the peak of the pandemic, the urgency of vaccines allowed a super-fast response from the authorities, with emergency authorizations and, in one year, it was possible to approve a vaccine. At the moment, with other products on the market, we don’t know how long it will take, we could be talking about a longer process than it was for the other vaccines.”, he underlined.

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