Serum Institute, the world largest manufacturer of vaccines by volume, has currently joined hands with various global pharmaceutical institutes and firms in efforts to produce a vaccine for Covid-19. Serum Institute’s chief executive officer (CEO) Adar Poonawalla, via email, share his views on the current status of Covid-19 and BCG vaccines.
There are trials for the recombinant Bacille Calmette-Guerian (BCG) vaccine underway in Pune and other places. What is the update on this?
Serum Institute of India’s (SII) recombinant BCG vaccine trials are going on in Pune at Ruby Hall, KEM Pune and Jehangir Hospital, Pune. These trials are going on in more than 30 location across the country. These are phase-3 trials to improve the innate ability to fight the virus and reduce the severity.
Is there any timeframe Serum institute is looking at for the production of recombinant BCG vaccine that promises to boost human immunity against Covid-19?
This is an extremely safe vaccine since it is given to new-born babies and we have been selling this in more than 100 countries worldwide for more than two decades. Based on our trials, we will be certain on the efficacy and viability of the vaccine, post which we will be able to comment on the production of the vaccine. We are already manufacturing the rBCG vaccine only for our ongoing clinical trials.
On Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Oxford University, how have dynamics changed for Serum after AstraZeneca recently joined forces with the UK government to support Oxford’s vaccine?
Currently, our discussion with AstraZeneca is on-going. For now, we can certainly say that if the trials are successful in establishing efficacy, we will manufacture more than 100 million doses. We can comment further once the deal is concluded and finalised.
When can Serum expect to start manufacturing of Covid-19 vaccine?
Since our deal with AstraZeneca is yet to be finalized, it would be difficult to comment on the exact timeline. However, we aim to produce four-five million doses a month once the deal is concluded and then gradually ramp up the production, based on the success of the trials.
What is the status of Serum’s independent endeavour to develop a vaccine on COVID with USA-based firm Codagenix?
At present, we are undergoing pre-clinical trials (animal trial phase) and hope to progress to the human trial phase by September/October. The aim is to make the vaccine over the next 1.5-twoyears 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.
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