NEW DELHI : Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Tuesday licensed its technology for Shigella vaccine to Delhi-based MSD Wellcome Trust Hilleman for scaling up and commercialization, officials with the research council said.

The vaccine was developed by ICMR and the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED).

Shigellosis, caused by a family of bacteria known as shigella, is a contagious disease and is marked by bloody diarrhoea with or without fever. Globally, it is the cause for around 125 million diarrhoeal episodes annually, with around 160,000 deaths of which a third are children under five years age. Management of shigellosis includes improvement of sanitation, rehydration therapy and most essentially, antibiotic therapy.

Considering the global emergence of multi-drug resistance (MDR), absence of an effective Shigella vaccine, and that it is one of the priority vaccines recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), developing this indigenous vaccine against shigellosis was the need of the hour and as such is a major breakthrough, the ICMR said.

“Licensing the Shigella vaccine technology to Hilleman is an unprecedented event towards execution of translational research which further strengthens the NICED's mission to identify, develop strategies for prevention and control of enteric infections," said Shanta Dutta, Director, NICED.

“ICMR is extending all support for expeditious development and commercialization of cost-effective vaccine based on the technology for the benefit of mankind," said Professor Balram Bhargava, Secretary, Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and Director General, ICMR.

The licensed Shigella vaccine candidate has shown significant immune response and protective efficacy against the infection during challenged studies in various animal models.

Davinder Gill, Chief Executive Officer of Hilleman Labs said his company will collaborate with ICMR and NICED for developing an affordable vaccine for shigellosis suitable for Low Middle Income Countries (LMIC). After scaling up, the vaccine will be made accessible to shigellosis affected regions of the world.

The licensed Shigella vaccine candidate has been developed with support from ICMR, Okayama University, Japan and National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Japan. The translation of the licensed Shigella vaccine candidate to a market-ready product will involve a stringent pre-clinical and clinical development pathway.

Given the absence of a licensed Shigella vaccine and emergence of increased antimicrobial resistance, this vaccine has a huge potential to become an effective tool in the fight against the disease.

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