Mumbai: Bharat Biotech International Ltd, the company developing India’s first diarrhoea vaccine, aims to generate $100 million in annual sales from its rotavirus product in a domestic market dominated by GlaxoSmithKline Plc.

Bharat Biotech, which announced this week completion of late-stage clinical trials of its monovalent rotavirus vaccine Rotavac, targets to supply at least half the Indian government’s needs, chairman Krishna Murthy Ella said in a phone interview from Hyderabad on Thursday.

The $1-a-dose vaccine will challenge a more expensive version made by Glaxo and a preventive made by Merck and Co. that protects against five rotavirus strains. The immunizations are a key tool in fighting severe, dehydrating diarrhoea that kills 800,000 children worldwide each year, mostly in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Can we save these lives and at the same time make a profit?" said Ella. “You don’t want a child to die of diarrhoea, so there is an appeal on an emotional level. But still, my profit margin will remain the same as GSK’s. We’re a high-efficiency country for production."

Bharat Biotech’s facility has the capacity to produce 600 million doses in bulk or 360 million doses in vials each year, he said. The Indian government requires about 100 million doses annually to protect its newborns through its routine paediatric vaccine programme. The nation’s private health care system needs about 10 million doses, he said.

Glaxo, Merck

Competitors have already reduced prices for the vaccine, Ella said. Unicef has a contract to buy Glaxo’s single-strain Rotarix vaccine at 1.88 euros ($2.42) per dose through 2016, and Merck’s RotaTeq for $5 per dose through 2015, according to data on the organization’s website.

Closely held Bharat Biotech, which is based in Hyderabad, invested 65 lakh over 12 years to develop Rotavac, aided by $30 million in funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for clinical trials, according to Ella.

The vaccine comes from a strain of rotavirus that infects cows, discovered by scientists in India including M.K. Bhan at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in the mid-1980s, according to a statement from the Department of Biotechnology.

Rotavac reduced severe rotavirus diarrhoea by 56% during the first year of life, according to data from clinical trials presented on 14 May.

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