Serum Institute of India Pvt Ltd (SII) – the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by number of doses produced and sold globally – has been at the forefront of spearheading efforts to produce a vaccine to fight the dreaded novel coronavirus. SII will be investing $100 million on a potential COVID-19 vaccine being developed at Oxford University, according to media reports.
The Pune-based company has partnered with AstraZeneca, a British biopharma giant, to ensure equitable supply of the AZD1222 vaccine doses to India as well as low-and-middle-income countries. Speaking about the firm’s plans to move ahead in terms of production of doses, Adar Poonawalla, CEO, Serum Institute of India (SII), shared that their manufacturing facility was ready and they planned on starting production in two months. “We are spending more than $100 million for this facility. Till the trials are completed successfully for safety and efficacy, vaccines will not be distributed either in India or anywhere else in the world. Having said that, we will start making a few millions of doses and stockpiling it at personal risk,” said Adar.
Answering the question as regards how many doses would India be likely to get in the first phase and when would they be available, he said that it is a bit early to comment on a specific number. “However, if the vaccine trials succeed, India will gain access to the doses as it will also be the requirement of the Government of India. And we are certain that everybody will respect if the substantial volumes go to India,” he added.
Over the past 50 years, SII has built significant capability in vaccine manufacturing and supply globally. SII will work closely with AstraZeneca to ensure fair and equitable distribution of the vaccine in low-and-middle-income countries. Speaking on SII’s endeavour to develop a vaccine with USA-based firm – Codagenix, Adar Poonawalla recently said that the firm was currently undergoing pre-clinical trials (animal trial phase) and hoped to progress to the human trial phase by September/October, 2020. “The aim is to make the vaccine over the next 1.5-2 years to help combat the novel coronavirus. With the combined efforts of our partner Codagenix, we are optimistic that we will be able to provide a viable and effective vaccine for mass use,” he had said.
Besides, Oxford and Codagenix, SII is also working with Austria’s Themis and other two vaccine candidates. At least half a dozen attempts at creating a vaccine against coronavirus are on globally and the efforts at Oxford are considered one of the most promising. Here’s hoping that SII does us all even more proud and soon develops the vaccine which will deliver us from the COVID-19 pandemic.