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MUMBAI : Ahmedabad-based Zydus Cadila, which has developed world’s first DNA based covid-19 vaccine, aims to start trials on a mRNA-based vaccine candidate as it looks to stay in tune with the rising preference of this platform across the world, people aware of the development told Mint.

Zydus Cadila is in the early stages of scouting for partners to start the trial on its mRNA vaccine candidate, announcement of which is likely in a few weeks. The company did not respond to an email query sent by Mint asking for a confirmation of this development.

If the trials do start, it will be the third mRNA vaccine that will be under development in India. The other companies working on this technology are Pune-based Gennova Biopharmaceuticals Ltd, the first Indian company to start the mRNA vaccine trial in the country, and Biological E Ltd, which has tied up with Canadian company Providence Therapeutics.

The move by Indian companies into the mRNA platform comes at a time when already established vaccine makers are receding from this platform.

French vaccine maker Sanofi is dropping its plans to develop an mRNA-based covid-19 vaccine as it felt it has little space to expand in a market that is already dominated by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, the early pioneers of the covid-19 mRNA vaccine platform, it said on Tuesday.

Both these companies have captured the advanced markets around the world through billion-dollar government contracts that are sealed until 2024. Sanofi will focus on the traditional recombinant protein-based vaccine platform along with British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Plc., the trials of which are in advanced stages, including in India, it said.

Sanofi plans to use the vaccine as booster shots become imperative. The company will keep its mRNA platform to work on an influenza vaccine, it said.

For Indian makers, the room to explore the mRNA vaccine platform is an opportunity to cater to other low-and middle-income countries that have been ignored by Pfizer and Moderna.

“These are early days and the mRNA platform is not easy to scale up and that is why you will see only a few companies who would stay in the race," said a senior official of an Indian vaccine company that is working on this technology, requesting anonymity.

The requirement of storing the vaccine in sub-zero temperatures remains one of the key issues of using this technology in tropical countries such as India. Concerns over the waning immunity of these platforms also cast a shadow on how sustainable they are.

Yet companies are undeterred. The Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine maker, is also eyeing the mRNA vaccine platform. SII will explore the mRNA vaccine platform along with Bengaluru-based Biocon Biologics Ltd, the company’s chief executive officer, Adar Poonawalla, told journalists this month.

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