Amid the growing excitement about the progress of the HIV/AIDS vaccine—perhaps the most high-profile vaccine in development—there has been quiet progress on other potentially revolutionary vaccines. Many of these developments are taking place in Indian laboratories that are emerging as serious front-runners in the global vaccine race.
A recombinant, protein-based malaria vaccine is being developed by the Delhi-based International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, in collaboration with Bharat Biotech International Ltd. Laboratory protocols to produce two major P. falciparum antigens to be used as malaria vaccines have been developed and expectations are running high to find an effective antidote to the disease that causes a million deaths every year.
Although Merck’s Gardasil and GlaxoSmithKline Biological’s Cervarix vaccines, that protect against cervical cancer, may have won the global race, development is on in full swing on an Indian vaccine that would cost considerably less than those produced by the multinationals.
Both the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology in Kerala and the new research and development facility of the Institute of Cytology and Preventive Oncology in Noida, which is a part of the National Capital Region, are carrying out experiments to develop a combined preventive and therapeutic vaccine using transgenic plants.
A consortium of players who form the Indian Rotavirus Vaccine Development Project are engaged in developing an indigenous rotavirus vaccine that will compete against Merck’s Rotateq and GSK’s Rotarix. .
Last month, Pune-based Serum Institute of India announced the launch of its indigenously developed, low-priced Hib (haemophilus influenzae type b) vaccine. In the product pipeline of the company are a bladder cancer vaccine and a pneumococcal polysaccharide and conjugate vaccine.
India is very active on the HIV/AIDS vaccine front as well, with the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) becoming a part of the global programme to find an effective vaccine against the disease.
“India’s DBT is delighted to be a part of the global search for an efficacious AIDS vaccine,” stated Professor Maharaj K. Bhan, secretary, DBT, last month, during the announcement of a new Indian medicinal chemistry programme, co-sponsored and co-funded by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and DBT.
Essentially, the partnership aims to address a major obstacle in AIDS vaccine development: the design of candidate vaccines to elicit neutralizing antibodies against HIV.