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India's 'first' indigenous coronavirus vaccine -Covaxin- is being developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and NIV. Bharat Biotech is among seven Indian firms working on Covid-19 vaccines. It was the first to get the regulatory nod to begin phase 1 and phase 2 human trials. Zydus Cadila has also got an approval from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) for human clinical trials for its indigenously developed vaccine candidates against Sars-Cov-2.

Here is all you need to know about India's first coronavirus vaccine, Covaxin:

1) The indigenous and inactivated vaccine has been developed at Bharat Biotechs BSL-3 (Bio-Safety Level 3) high containment facility located in the Genome Valley in Hyderabad.

2) The SARS-CoV-2 strain was isolated in NIV, Pune and transferred to Bharat Biotech.

3) "This is the first indigenous vaccine being developed by India and is one of the top priority projects which is being monitored at the topmost level of the Government," ICMR DG Balram Bhargava has written a letter to Bharat Biotech and principal investigators of medical colleges .

4) The ICMR has identified 12 clinical trial sites, including medical institutions and hospitals, and has asked their principal investigators to ensure that the subject enrolment is initiated no later than July 7.

5) Bhargava in his letter to principal investigators of the 12 sites said, "It is envisaged to launch the vaccine for public health use latest by August 15 after completion of all clinical trials...." the letter stated.

6) Ahmedabad-based Zydus Cadila Healthcare Ltd on Thursday became the second company to receive the nod from the Drugs Controller General of India ( DCGI) to start human clinical trials for its indigenously developed vaccine candidate. The drug regulator’s approval for Zydus’ ZyCoV-D comes days after Bharat Biotech got a similar nod for human trials for its vaccine candidate

7) Over seven vaccines are currently being researched in India with two receiving the nod for human trials.

8) Along with the two Indian vaccines, Covaxin and ZyCov-D, the world over, 11 out of 140 vaccine candidates have entered the human trials.

9) In the past years, India has emerged as one of the significant vaccine manufacturing hubs.

10) Indian manufacturers account for 60% of vaccine supplies made to UNICEF.

Covid-19 vaccine race

More than 140 candidate vaccines are under various stages of development. One of the leading candidates is AZD1222 developed Jenner Institute of University of Oxford and licenced to AstraZeneca British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Cambridge, England. The MRNA-1273 vaccine developed by Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, Washington and taken up for production by the US-based Moderna pharmaceutical is just a step behind. Both these firms have already inked an agreement with Indian manufacturers for production of the COVID vaccines.

How these vaccines work

We can inactivate a whole virus with heat or formaldehyde (that is 'killed'), yet keep the antigen molecular structures still intact. However, the inactivated virus will not be able to infect or cause disease, as it is no longer functional. The Bharat Biotech's Covaxin uses the virus isolated from an Indian patient by the National Institute of Virology to develop the inactivated virus vaccine.

Novel coronavirus infects the human cells with the help of its spike proteins. The spike protein of the virus binds with the ACE2 receptors on the surface of the human respiratory tract cells. Once the virus fuse, the viral genome is slipped into the human cell where around a thousand copies of the virus are made in just ten hours. These baby viruses emigrate to nearby cells. Infection can be arrested if only we can deactivate the spike protein of the novel coronavirus. Thus the antigen on the spike protein is a crucial vaccine target. If the antibody blocks the spike protein, then the virus cannot bind the cell and multiply.


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