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Serum Institute of India will manufacture COVID-19 vaccine for India and low-and-middle income countries.  (REUTERS)
Serum Institute of India will manufacture COVID-19 vaccine for India and low-and-middle income countries. (REUTERS)

COVID-19 vaccine: With three vaccine candidates, India to play major role in fight against coronavirus

  • Several Indian firms have already joined the race to develop an effective vaccine against COVID-19
  • At present, two vaccine candidates are at phase I and II clinical human trials in India

India with its "great track record in low cost drug manufacturing" will play a major role against coronavirus, believes Nobel laureate Peter Charles Doherty. "Given India’s great track record in low cost drug and vaccine manufacture, we expect that India will be a major player. This is, after all, the fastest way to return global economic activity," said Doherty.

Peter Charles Doherty won Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1996 for his discovery of how the body’s immune system distinguishes virus-infected cells from normal ones.

Doherty remark didn't come as a surprise. India is among the largest manufacturer of generic drugs and vaccines in the world. Vaccine makers in India has made million of doses against polio, meningitis, pneumonia, rotavirus, BCG, measles, mumps and rubella over the years. Now, several Indian firms have already joined the race to develop an effective vaccine against COVID-19.

One of them is Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine maker by number of doses produced and sold globally. British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca Plc has joined SII to manufacture COVID-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford. Pune based firm has already received permission to conduct phase II and phase III trial of Oxford's COVID-19 vaccine in India.

The company has already manufactured around 2-3 million doses of the vaccine for getting the process correct and also stabilising its machinery."If you look at the process right now, the risk of the opex (operating expenditure) which we are putting in is more than $200 million. If this vaccine fails, we will be down (by) $200 million," Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive officer of Serum Institute of India earlier said.

SII also said Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will provide at-risk funding of $150 million to manufacture 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for India and low-and-middle income countries. Under this agreement, Pune-based firm can charge a maximum of $3 per dose for the two COVID-19 vaccines.

At present, two vaccine candidates are at phase I and II clinical human trials in India. India's first COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin has been developed by Bharat BioTech, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Institute of Virology (NIV). Hyderabad-based vaccine maker has "successfully completed" Phase-I human clinical trials of the vaccine and Phase-II will start soon, Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

Another vaccine was developed by Zydus Cadila. Dubbed as ZyCoV-D, Zydus' COVID-19 vaccine commenced phase II clinical trials from August 6. "ZyCoV-D was found to be safe and well tolerated in the phase I clinical trial," the drug maker said.

"All the subjects in phase I clinical trial were closely monitored in a clinical pharmacological unit for 24 hours post dosing for safety and for 7 days thereafter and the vaccine was found to be very safe," Zydus Cadila Chairman Pankaj R Patel said.

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