India seems inclined to leap ahead in the race to develop the elusive COVID-19 vaccine. At least seven Indian pharma giants — Bharat Biotech, Serum Institute, Zydus Cadila, Indian Immunologicals, Mynvax, Panacea Biotec, and Biological E are working against time to develop the much-needed coronavirus vaccine in India. The race against Covid-19 virus has become all the more challenging with the entry of more than 100 start-ups in the last few months with the implicit support of the Government.
Highlighting India’s efforts to fight the challenge COVID 19 virus Union Minister of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences and Health & Family Welfare, Dr Harsh Vardhan disclosed that India is among the top ten countries all over the world in terms of the number of patents filed.
According to Dr Balram Bhargava, Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), India plays a prominent role in vaccine development and manufacturing globally because of the latest technology and well-equipped facilities.
Apart from testing the efficacy of its own India is hosting clinical trials for all the foremost vaccines being tested prior to mass production all over the world. At least five of these vaccines are in advance phases of clinical trials.
Two of them – COVAXIN developed by Bharat Biotech and COVISHIELD by the Serum Institute of India are in highly advanced or Phase-III clinical trial stage of development under the supervision of Indian Council of Medical Research.
One of India’s first indigenous COVID-19 vaccines is COVAXIN developed by Bharat Biotech in association the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Institute of Virology (NIV). A leading player in vaccine development Bharat Biotech headquartered in Hyderabad holds more than 140 global patents. The world’s largest supplier of rabies vaccines, Bharat Biotech is known for creating breakthrough vaccines for several challenging diseases like influenza H1N1, Rotavirus, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies, Typhoid (world’s first conjugated typhoid vaccine) Chikungunya and Zika.
Similarly Serum Institute of India (SII) is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume. The institute and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the apex body for biomedical research in India, have successfully completed preclinical development and received permission for human clinical trials of COVISHIELD vaccine in India. SII has already manufactured 40 million doses of the COVISHIELD — the most advanced human testing ready vaccine in India. ICMR is providing continuous support to SII in conducting and funding the clinical trials of COVISHIELD at 15 centres in India.
ICMR and SII have also collaborated to test COVOVAX (Novavax) vaccine developed by Novavax, USA a late-stage biotechnology company that promotes improved health globally through the discovery, development, and commercialization of innovative vaccines to prevent serious infectious disease.
Leading Indian Pharmaceutical Company Zydus Cadila is conducting Phase two clinical trial of ZyCoV-D an indigenous DNA Vaccine. Apart from this, the Vaccine Technology Centre (VTC) of the Zydus Group has been developing basic vaccine programmes such as Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Haemophilus Influenzae type B, Hepatitis B, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Varicella, Influenza and Typhoid fever. This is besides developing new vaccines for Human Papilloma Virus, Leishmaniasis, Malaria, Haemorrhagic Congo Fever, Ebola and Japanese Encephalitis. Zydus is also one of the largest manufacturers of anti-rabies facilities in India. India’s first indigenously developed Tetravalent Inactivated Influenza vaccine, VaxiFlu – 4 manufactured and launched by Zydus provides protection from four influenza viruses- H1N1, H3N2, Type B (Brisbane) and Type B (Phuket).
Headquartered in Ahmedabad Zydus Cadila is India’s 4th largest pharmaceutical industry and has manufacturing and research facilities in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim in India as well as also US and Brazil.
Another Indian pharma giant, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, has tied up to distribute the Russian Sputnik V vaccine in India after conducting final-stage human trials and receiving regulatory approval. Sputnik V vaccine already being tested on human volunteers – is likely to cost less than ₹700 per dose.
Pfizer India has reportedly asked permission of the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) to import Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 mRNA vaccine for sale and distribution in India.
Apart from these, Indian Immunological, Mynvax and Biological E are also working to develop vaccines for COVID-19.
The vaccine incubated by Mynvax in association with Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore is ready for toxicity studies, and human clinical trials. It can be stored at 37°C for over a month without losing its efficacy to fight the virus thus eliminating the need for a cold chain.