Daily US Times: When US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that India and the US were working together to develop vaccines against the coronavirus, it didn’t entirely come as a surprise.
For more than three decades, the two countries have run an internationally recognised joint vaccine development programme.
They both worked on stopping influenza, TB, dengue, and enteric diseases in their tracks. Trials of a dengue vaccine are planned in the near future.
India is among the largest manufacturer of generic vaccines and drugs in the world. It is home to half a dozen major vaccine makers and a host of smaller ones, making doses against meningitis, polio, rotavirus, pneumonia, mumps, rubella, BCG and measles, among other diseases.
Half a dozen Indian firms are currently developing vaccines against the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.
One of the firms is the Serum Institute of India. It is the world’s largest vaccine maker by the number of doses produced and sold globally.
The company is 53 years old now and makes 1.5 billion doses every year, mainly from its two facilities in the western city of Pune. The firm has two other small plants in the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. Around 7,000 people work for the firm.
Serum Institute of India supplies some 20 vaccines to 165 countries. Some 80% of the company’s vaccines are exported and, at an average of 50 cents a dose, they are some of the cheapest in the world.
To develop a “live attenuated” vaccine, among the more than 80 reportedly in development all over the world, Serum Institute of India has now stitched up collaboration with Codagenix, an American biotech company.
Chief executive officer of Serum Institute of India, Adar Poonawalla told the BBC: “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.”
Serum Institute of India has also partnered to mass produce a vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and backed by the British government.
A genetically engineered chimpanzee virus would form the basis for the new vaccine. On Thursday, human clinical trials began in Oxford. If all goes well, scientists hope to make at least a million doses by September.
Prof Adrian Hill, who runs the Jenner Institute at Oxford, said: “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.”
This is where Indian vaccine makers have a head start over others. Mr. Poonawalla’s firm alone has an extra capacity of 400 to 500 million doses. He says: “We have lots of capacity as we have invested in it.”
The COVID-19 Vaccine Research in India | NDTV
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