Hyderabad: International Vaccine Institute (IVI), a non-profit organization that develops vaccines against diseases affecting developing countries, said it is looking to deepen its engagement with India for clinical development and manufacturing of new vaccines for diseases such as typhoid fever, shigellosis and dengue.

“We are very interested in what is happening in India because it is major contributor to the worldwide efforts against infectious diseases," said Christian Loucq, director general of IVI, in Hyderabad.

IVI licensed its first internally developed oral cholera vaccine to Shantha Biotechnics Ltd, a unit of French drug maker Sanofi SA, in 2009. The oral cholera vaccine is World Health Organization-prequalified and is supplied at less than a dollar to global immunization programmes.

IVI developed this vaccine with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the government of South Korea, and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, by significantly modifying a vaccine used and produced in Vietnam.

India exports vaccines to 150 countries and produces 40-70% of WHO demand for DPT, BCG and 90% of measles vaccines.

“The vaccines produced by India are very affordable," Loucq said.

For research and clinical trials of new vaccines, IVI has formed a partnership with local agencies including Indian Council of Medical Research and National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, Kolkata.

“One of the major problems we have in India like any other developing country is access to clean water and sanitation," said Loucq. “Young kids are very much at risk of enteral and diarrheal diseases; vaccine is the best available option."

Resistance from policy makers to add new vaccines to the national immunization programme is because of a lack of epidemiological data. IVI, he said, will take part in projects that will help India build epidemiological data and better disease surveillance system.

“We need to understand the importance of the disease, how many cases, which age group, which part of the population, how much money could be saved by introducing the vaccine, so that’s been one very important aspect of the work of IVI," Loucq said.

IVI is developing a dengue vaccine in collaboration with Sabin Vaccine Institute, Johns Hopkins University, and WHO with a grant of $6.9 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The agency is also working on developing a live attenuated typhoid vaccine, which is different from existing typhoid vaccines that use dead bacteria strain. A shigellosis or dysentery vaccine is currently under global clinical trials.

IVI, which has an annual budget of $25 million, relies on South Korea, Sweden and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for funds.

IVI said it will ask the signatory countries to chip in with funds. “The more money we can get, more research we can do," Loucq said.

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