Hyderabad: Bharat Biotech International Ltd has started work on developing a more potent vaccine for swine flu at a time when the human respiratory infection has claimed more than 800 lives in India.

The company, which developed a vaccine for swine flu in 2010, is trying to sequence the genome of H1N1, a subtype of the influenza A virus that causes the infection.

“We have collected samples of virus strains from swine flu patients in Hyderabad and work on sequencing is underway to understand virus genotypes," said Krishna Ella, chairman of Bharat Biotech.

The vaccine against H1N1 needs to be constantly improved and updated, as the virus mutates a lot, Ella said.

An estimated 11,000 swine flu cases have been reported across India in the last three months, resulting in more than 800 deaths. The World Health Organization has declared H1N1 a seasonal flu virus.

Ella said Bharat Biotech is pursuing a “vaccine adjuvant programme to enhance the vaccine immune capability manifold".

Adjuvant is the process of enhancing vaccine efficacy.

Bharat Biotech developed a vaccine for swine flu in 2010 based on the H1N1 virus strain borrowed from the US-based Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Pune-based Serum Institute of India Ltd and Ahmedabad-based Cadila Healthcare Ltd also developed vaccine for H1N1.

Bharat Biotech used a cell-cultured approach to develop the vaccine, while Serum and Cadila used an egg-based approach.

In a cell culture vaccine strains are grown in cells, while the egg-based approach uses embryonated hen eggs.

Lack of demand and short shelf life of vaccines forced these companies to destroy their earlier stocks of swine flu vaccines. But the recent outbreak of swine flu has led Bharat Biotech to stock up on the vaccine, Ella said.

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