After promising results in pre-clinical trials (in animals) announced in mid-April, Immunethep, based in Cantanhede, in the Coimbra district, is ready to enter clinical trials in Portugal, but is dependent on the arrival of public support to start this phase, Bruno Santos, the company's executive director, told Lusa news agency.

"We are waiting for the investment to enter clinical trials. This is what is needed to kick-start the clinical part", he added, stressing that the pharmaceutical company has had "some talks with the Government", but with nothing defined yet.

According to Bruno Santos, if this investment were already guaranteed, the company could already be starting production of the vaccines in conditions to be used in the first phase of clinical trials.

The responsible stressed that Immunethep has also had meetings with private companies, but stressed that most of the investment in these situations comes "from public sources and the private companies complement this investment".

"We would like to be able to already be working freely and thinking about the next phases," he said.

Besides the possibility of the vaccine being supported through community funds, Bruno Santos stressed that alternative forms of funding should be "thought of" to speed up the process, namely through the anticipated purchase of vaccines by the Government, as has been done in other countries.

"It would be an advance, but it would allow us to move forward now," he added, explaining that an expenditure of around 20 million Euros is expected in the clinical trials phase.

According to the pharmaceutical company's CEO, the initial clinical trials (where the safety of the vaccine in humans and its first signs of effectiveness are tested) will take place in Portugal.

In a broader phase of human testing, which will involve two thousand to five thousand people, as most individuals at risk in Portugal are already vaccinated, Immunethep will have to develop trials in other countries, he said.

Asked about the possibility of lifting the patents on vaccines against Covid-19, Bruno Santos said that this "is a non-issue", considering that the "most important thing is the production capacity".

"In the mRNA vaccines [Pfizer and Moderna], no one else besides those who are producing them has the knowledge or capacity to produce them," he noted.

Bruno Santos also stressed the fact that the vaccine developed in Cantanhede uses the virus as a whole, which makes it "more robust" in the face of different variants of the new coronavirus that may emerge and that may undermine the effectiveness of vaccines developed focusing only on the 'spike' protein.

Immunethep was founded in 2014 and is dedicated to the development of immunotherapies, mainly against multidrug-resistant bacterial infections.