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As many as five Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing companies based in Hyderabad are racing to bring out an antidote days before the world is set to brace for a new year amid the pandemic.

The Hyderabad city is poised to emerge as a 'saviour' from the deadly virus with the vaccine development process by Bharat Biotech, Biological E Ltd and Aurobindo Pharma, which are currently in various stages, while Dr Reddy's and Hetero have tie-ups for manufacturing the vaccine.

Few of these firms have also drawn up plans to scale up their Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing capacities.

Besides vaccine makers, the International Airport here has also stepped up the cold-chain infrastructure for vaccine transportation. GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo (GHAC is in talks with various stakeholders towards meeting specific requirements of export and import of COVID-19 vaccines.

A recent visit of over 60 envoys to vaccine manufacturing facilities of Bharat Biotech and BE establishes the fact that the city will be in the forefront in making and supplying vaccines for COVID-19 which is rocking the world with over 77 million cases and nearly two million deaths as of now.

Udaya Bhaskar, director-general of Pharmexcil, a pharma exports promotion body under the department of commerce, said as there is no policy in place with regard to COVID-19 vaccine exports to other countries, it can be assumed that the centre may ensure that domestic requirement is fulfilled before allowing vaccine makers to export.

On tie-ups with foreign companies

"All these vaccine makers, except Bharat Biotech, are having development or manufacturing tie-ups with foreign companies. We do not know the agreement details as to what quantity will be exported from India. However, the Indian Government has the final say in this regard," Bhaskar said.

Telangana Director of Public Health G Srinivas Rao said though the companies are located here, the state will not get preference in vaccine allocation as it will be decided by the Centre. The state has no role in vaccine allocation. It will be decided by the centre only. They will devise a method to allot the number of doses and states will get accordingly," the official told PTI.

The city's prominence accentuated after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited a facility of Bharat Biotech Genome valley here on November 28 and reviewed the progress of Covaxin, a vaccine candidate for COVID-19.

It is being developed by the company in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology and is now undergoing phase-3 trials.

Apart from Covaxin, BB is also in the process of coming out with a vaccine that would be intranasal. BiologicalELtdhas entered into an agreement with Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, part of pharma major Johnson& Johnson for the creation and enhancement of production capabilities to manufacture the latter's COVID-19 vaccine candidate, currently in Phase 1/2 of clinical trials.

International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, recently announced a loan of up to USD 30 million (around 220 crore) to BE to support its expansion of low- priced, generic vaccines for routine immunisation of children and boost capacity to manufacture any future COVID-19 vaccine.

Aurobindo Pharma expects to commercialise its vaccine manufacturing facility in Hyderabad by April-May next year and is investing around 275 crore in the facility, which would be utilised to produce vaccines for the treatment of various viral diseases, including COVID-19.

A top official of CSR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology had earlier said three CSIR labs CCMB-Hyderabad, Institute of Medical Technology, Chandigarh and Indian Institute of Chemical Biology Kolkata, are developing vaccines candidates using different technology platforms.

Aurobindo will undertake clinical development and commercialization of the vaccines. The company has also entered into an exclusive license agreement with Covaxx, a US-based company, to develop, commercialize and manufacture UB-612, the first Multitope Peptide-based vaccine to fight COVID-19, for India and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) agency.

Dr Reddys Laboratories Ltd and Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) have already said they commenced adaptive phase 2/3 clinical trials for Sputnik V vaccine in India after receiving the necessary clearance from the Central Drugs Laboratory, Kasauli in Himachal.

In September 2020, Dr.Reddys and RDIF entered into a partnership to conduct clinical trials of the Sputnik V vaccine and rights for distribution of the first 100 million doses in India.

Pharma major Hetero also has a tie-up with RDIF to manufacture over 100 million doses of Sputnik V per annum The city-based firms also played a crucial role in providing bulk drugs and formulations for some of the prescribed medicines for COVID-19 like Remdesivir and Favipiravir.

Meanwhile, India's Covid-19 caseload rose to 1,01,87,850 on Sunday with 18,732 fresh infections being reported in a span of 24 hours, according to Union Health Ministry data.

The country's death toll due to coronavirus touched 1,47,622 after 279 people succumbed to the killer virus.

With agency inputs

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