Together we can win against coronavirus! India and US have been collectively developing vaccines as the US Secretary of state Mike Pompeo stated on the fortnight!
Though this isn’t much of a surprise, the countries set this joint vaccine development programme which is on for more than 3 decades now. Dengue, enteric diseases, influenza and TB are few diseases that have been subject to vaccine development.
Collapse all the notions that there is a big drug manufacturing unit across the world while Indian is among the largest manufacturer of generic drugs and vaccines in the world.
It is home to half a dozen major vaccine makers and a host of smaller ones, making doses against polio, meningitis, pneumonia, rotavirus, BCG, measles, mumps and rubella, among other diseases.
6 out of 12 Indian firms are rigorously developing the vaccines against the virus that has led to so many deaths and losses. The world’s largest vaccine maker by a number of doses in production and marketing is Serum Institute of India. It is a 53-year old company that makes 1.5 billion doses every year.
There are two facilities that these vaccines come from the western city of Pune and the other two in the small plant so Netherlands & Czech Republic. Apparently, close to 7000 people work in that firm.
Serum Institute supplied around 20 vaccines to 165 countries in which 80% of it is exported at an average rate of 50 cents a dose & they’re cheapest in the world. Now the firm has stitched up collaboration with Codagenix, an American biotech company, to develop a “live attenuated” vaccine, among the more than 80 reportedly in development all over the world.
A live attenuated vaccine has the potential to combat deadly virus to a greater degree. The vaccine reduces the harmful elements – a pathogen but alive. (They cause no or very mild disease because the pathogen is weakened under laboratory conditions.)
“We are planning a set of animal trials [on mice and primates] of this vaccine in April. By September, we should be able to begin human trials,” Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer of Serum Institute of India, told me over the phone.
The UK government has all hands in developing the vaccine from the University of Oxford where it is partnered with Poonawalla’s firm for mass production. The development starts with the genetically engineered chimpanzee virus. On Thursday, human trials were started in Oxford. If the results turn out great then scientists will start the production in millions by September.
The Poonawalla’s firm!
“It’s pretty clear the world is going to need hundreds of millions of doses, ideally by the end of this year, to end this pandemic, to lead us out of lockdown,” Prof Adrian Hill, who runs the Jenner Institute at Oxford, told the BBC’s Health and Science correspondent James Gallagher.
Our firm alone has the capacity to produce over 400 million doses, which is extra capacity. This is where Indian vaccine makers have a head start over others. “We have lots of capacity as we have invested in it,” he says.
Adding to it, Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech has partnered with University of Wisconsin Madison & FluGen for the mass production of 300 million doses to distribute globally.
Zydus Cadilla is working on two vaccines, while Biological E, Indian Immunologicals, and Mynvax are developing a vaccine each. Another four or five home-grown vaccines are in early stages of development.
“The credit must go to entrepreneurs and pharmaceutical companies who invested in quality manufacturing and in processes that made it possible to produce in bulk. The owners of these companies have also had the goal of doing good for the world, while also running a successful business and this model is a win-win for all,” Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist of the World Health Organization (WHO), told me.
Global Covid-19 infections have already passed 2.5m with more than 177,000 deaths. Developing a safe vaccine which can be mass produced is going to be a time-consuming exercise – every lot has to be chemically and biologically tested before being released. #staysafe “But we are hopeful, very hopeful, of having a safe and efficacious vaccine in two years or less,” says Mr Poonawalla.